Category Archives: 20. High Crass Criminal

I deserve some time not being hunted by heroes or villains, and this is a classy town. Time to put the ass in class.

High Crass Criminal 10



After my enlightening visit with Venus and her two younger pals, I had a new accomplice on my side for when I marched on Emilio Basford. Sure, Venus distrusted me. She hated me. Some might even say she didn’t like me. But as much as Venus hated having anything to do with me, she needed to keep an eye on me while we rushed to get everything into place for saving the world.

That led to an interesting situation in the meanwhile. See, I didn’t trust her enough to stay at that fancy Master Academy with her and all her super-powered buddies. She needed me to lead her to Emilio Basford, but she might have decided to arrest me and hunt for him on her own. She didn’t find the alternative, staying at my place, to be any better. We had quite the conundrum on our hands.

In the end, the young’un Ball Boy presented us with a solution. He wouldn’t let go of the possibility of Venus and I being more than just mortal enemies. Still, his proposal that Venus and I “get a room” proved useful. We could keep an eye on each other while both being at risk.

We sprung for a hotel stay. Moai and the Rejects were in some of the rooms on one floor. Master Academy capes slept in other rooms on the floor.

For his quick thinking, Venus assigned Ball Boy to watch the outside from a car parked on the street. All night long.

I left my suit with Moai as part of the deal. I also submitted to a full search before entering the room. I requested a cavity search, but they felt that was unnecessary. They wouldn’t budge on that one, no matter how much I insisted I might have something hidden up there.

I didn’t know what to expect in that room with its two beds. A stern talking to. A search for what feelings might have led me to be a villain. Excessive flatulence. Instead, I barely got in there when Venus jabbed me in the neck with a needle. I reached for a needle of my own in my pants pocket, but she plucked the nanite syringe out of my hand as soon as I got it out.

“Dirty pool, old chap…” I said, stumbling toward a bed.

“I’ll be sleeping across the hall, I think. Goodnight Gecko,” she told me before I collapsed into sweet oblivion

I awoke to a civilian-dressed Venus yanking back the window blinds, bombarding me with bright sunlight. I tried to cover my eyes and found my left arm handcuffed to the bedpost. She turned to say, “Better get ready. We should start the day bright and early.”

“Do you say that to all men you handcuff to the bed?” I asked. My mouth was dry, like it had been subject to an orgy of cotton swabs.

Venus plucked a few strands of brown hair out of her face and tossed one of my own shoes at my crotch. “A shoe? Who throws a…wait a second. Did you undress m- awww.” I threw back the covers as I asked the question, only to find myself still dressed but for my shoes. Damn, that could have made for some interesting daydreams.

“You’d better get out of those soon or you’ll miss breakfast,” she told me before sauntering out of the room. Like that would happen. Not in any room with a pen in it.

I caught up with Venus, Tupsy-Turvy, that patriotic hero, Steve, and Larry in the elevator. Only between the room and the elevator, something happened to my clothes. The zipper on my pants was torn and my shirt looked like someone tried to tear it off me from the front. I’d even clawed at my chest for authenticity. So when I came rushing into that elevator, humming a jaunty tune to myself, and smiling at Venus, the others got an idea about what went on.

“Good morning, isn’t it, everyone?” I turned, smiled, and waved at the other occupants. The guy in the blue tights, a blue cape, red gloves, and white stars on his chest and head was Bright Star. He scowled beneath his beak-shaped visor. Larry gave me a thumbs-up. I think Steve smiled, but his lips are invisible. Topsy-Turvy’s reaction was best. I could have driven a truck into her mouth as far as it was open. Her eyes had a sort of amazed and amused gleam to them, too.

“Bastard,” Venus said out of the corner of her mouth, looking straight ahead.

“Amateur anesthesiologist,” I answered back. Hey, she could have killed me with that much sedative. Fostering the assumption that we were more than just enemies was the least I could do as far as revenge.

I included all that for you readers because it served a vital strategic purpose. It was funny. And it explained why Venus felt confident she wouldn’t be walking into a trap.

Around noon that same day, I couldn’t say I felt the same way. See, I had known the address of the man who hired me. After all, he couldn’t expect me to visit him at the site of the same fundraiser where we met. I just didn’t expect to see some old Victorian mansion with overgrown shrubs. The gate was some old iron affair with gargoyles on the pillars to either side. More gargoyles lined the walkway after, leading to a heavy door and a demonic door knocker.

Normally, I wouldn’t put much stock in a place looking haunted, but normally I don’t deal with a family meant to cause some form of apocalypse.

“A hundred bucks says there are suits of armor in one of the hallways,” I said to the group with me. The Rejects, Moai, and Ethan Basford joined me in this visit. A luchador outfit disguised Ethan. He filled out the bright green and blue of the singlet pretty well, and I couldn’t see any part of his face except his mouth. The mask featured little fake horns down the back of it and googly eyes above the one-way see-through patches that let him look out.

“Don’t take that bet,” said Ethan.

“What’s your sense of the place, Gecko?” asked Venus in my ear. I had given her a channel to talk to me on while I checked on this place. Unlike Venus and the hotel room, I knew I’d be fucked if I went in this place without protection.

“I smell offal,” I told her.

“That’s probably because you rushed out without showering this morning,” she responded. Then I heard the faint snickering of the rest of her team from that end.

“You know, Venus, I thought you preferred a bit of discretion. I mean, normally I know what you want, but…”

“Go to hell!”

I tried to ignore the yelling in my ear and scanned the door on our approach. To my regular sight, it was just a big, heavy door. Check an alternate vision mode, and it had unseen arcane designs in bodily fluids. “I’ll get back to you on that. Might wind up there before the day’s over.”

A butler answered my “shave and a haircut” knock. He looked as old and musty as the house itself, and silently led us to a trophy room of sorts. He left us there to admire the many dead animals gracing the walls and floor. There were so many stuffed heads on the wall, it looked like a crossover between The Lion King and the French Revolution.

“Mr. Gecko! You’ve worked out incredibly. How do you feel about world domination?” Emilio Basford’s voice boomed out as he stepped into the room, all smiles. He clapped his hands together and rubbed them, looking over my group. Virginia, the wife, followed after. I wondered if she knew she was banging her brother-in-law or not.

The Basford bastard proffered his hand and I shook it.

“Easy there, big fella. It’s just a little murder in your family. And, in retrospect, world domination’s not so bad. Just be careful picking a safe word.”

“This guy, huh?” Emilio laughed. He looked between his wife and I.

“Who is she?” asked Ethan, lowering his voice and speaking gruffly. Odd question, though. You’d think he’d recognize his own wife.

“This is my wife, Virginia, Mr…?”

I answered for Ethan. “This fine fellow is Luchazilla, master of the Kaiju crusher.” My explanation deflected Emilio’s questions, but Virginia narrowed her eyes as she looked at him.

“He brought one over. You bastard, you killed her and brought one over!” Ethan jumped on Emilio and throttled his brother.

Virginia laughed, but did nothing to help her husband, whichever man that was. “Hold up!” I called. I pulled Ethan off Emilio. “You can’t just kill this guy…that’s what I’m here for.”

“What?” asked Ethan. I brushed him off, then pushed him back into the Rejects.

As I stepped toward Emilio, who scrabbled back along a bearskin rug, I looked to Virginia. She just stood there, doing nothing to hinder me. I pulled Emilio to his feet. “Hey there, Emilio.”

“H-hey Gecko. Thanks for saving me. You know I have your money in the other room, right?”

I tilted my head to the side, keeping an eye on Virginia. I didn’t trust her. “Money? No, why would I be interested in money? I hear you have something bigger on the table. I hear there’s something about demons and destroying civilization. You know, you and yours ruling afterward. I got it about right?”

He nodded rapidly. “Yes! You want in? I’ll deal honestly with you this time. No small stuff. Power. You and I, we can rule this world.”

I nodded. “If I did, what then?”

Venus spoke up over her channel. “We’re moving in. You better not turn on us, Gecko.”

Emilio pointed to Ethan. “Just kill him like the others in the family. I found a way to bring over the things we made a deal with. They just need a human body.”

“Why are you doing this, Emilio? Don’t you care about your own family? What makes you think that everything will be better when it’s ashes and blood?!” Ethan lectured his twin from behind Moai.

Emilio gulped. I lifted him up high enough so he could respond over me. “If I had to choose between taking over myself or letting someone like this maniac rule, I’d rather be the one in control. You act like we have a choice, but the world is going to hell no matter what we do. The seas rise and boil, the plants die, mankind consumes itself.”

“Emilio, we were born better than that! We don’t have to give in to that temptation.”

“No we weren’t, Ethan. You didn’t make things worse, but you never made anything better.”

Virginia finally lost her patience and snapped her fingers. Emilio disappeared from my grip and appeared with his throat in her hand. She glared at him, eyes glowing with pale light. “You are being tricked. We must act, not talk.” She laughed and it echoed throughout the room. More quietly, she said, “Bring me their hearts.”

Around us, animal heads came to life. Wolves and hyenas growled. A lion roared over the mantle. The rug growled as well and snapped at Ethan’s feet. I heard clanking out in the hallway as suits of armor became mobile. Then I heard yelling, banging, and other sounds of fighting.

I left a hologram in my place and rushed toward them both. When I reappeared, I swept Emilio off to the side with a mighty blow that knocked him onto the grand horns of a snorting deer head on the wall. I followed it up by planting my laser potato peeler’s blade in the carotid artery of Virginia. She pulled it out like nothing and backhanded me, knocking me against a wall. A plaque with a taxidermied crab fell onto my lap. The reanimated crab pinched at me.

Virginia looked to Emilio, but there wasn’t much she could do. Not with an antler speared right through the man from back to front. The buxom blonde cried out in rage. She whirled around toward the rejects and swept her hand to the side, tossing Moai to the side by me. A miniature Venus De Milo sculpture fell onto his head and began writhing on him.

Writhing, I say to you. Writhing!

Virginia approached Ethan, her body changing. She grew taller, thicker. Amazonian, you might say. Her face and body looked every bit as carved as the little statue giving Moai a lap dance, with the effect enhanced somewhat by her hair going white and her skin going grey. What looked like a horn burst from her forehead and swept back over her head, then down low to form in to a split-ended tail. “You must serve me. Bring more of my family into yours. Then I will be yours as I was your brother’s.”

Showing great resolve, especially in light of the woman’s charm utterly disappearing, Ethan thrust his chin up and told her, “Never, you harridan. You corrupted my brother, but there’s nothing I want from you.”

I liked the little term of endearment he called her. Harridan.

Harridan continued to change as she approached Ethan. Headgame pulled him back to safety in arms that became thinner as they stretched. A hiss issued from Rattler’s head. Ray X lit up like a plasma globe. Before any of them got the chance to do anything, Moai and I leapt into action.

He charged at Harridan. I jumped in front of him, then hopped up and pushed off him with the aid of my jump enhancers. They hurtled me into Harridan, where I extended the Nasty Surprise mini chainsaw under my left forearm. Her head, severed from the rest of her, flopped to the ground. I rolled onto my feet next to it, then ducked as Moai collided with her and sent her body over my head. She crashed through the wall, into the hallway, and through another wall.

“It won’t be that easy,” Ethan said. From the sound of it, he was right. Someone let out a shriek so loud and intense that, even through my helmet, I thought the sound was in my head.

As it ended, I called up Venus, “Yo, Venus, you guys see her? The headless woman thingy, she’s one of those big Cthulhu people who wants to destroy stuff.”

“She’s not headless anymore. Whoa, she’s really ugly. And she’s growing. If you still want to walk out of town without interference from me, you’d better come give us a hand.”

I shut her off and purged the connection between us. Turning to Ethan, I asked, “Can she bring any more of her folks into this dimension?”

He shook his head. “That’s what we’re for. Even if she could, the ritual requires a dead body to inhabit temporarily.”

I pointed at Meltman. “Melty, go cremate Emilio.” He nodded and stepped toward the corpse, sucking in air to expel as flames.

Turning back to Ethan, I said, “You might want to lay low for a bit. The heroes can stop her, I’m sure, but they’re going to be really pissed and I think this is going to get destructive. They said she was getting bigger.”

As if to punctuate the statement, we heard an explosion from elsewhere in the manor. Everyone but Moai and I ducked. Looking up at me, Ethan asked, “You’re not going to stick around for your money?”

“Hell no. There’s plenty of ways you can pay me without me being here. Besides, you really think I’m going to give Venus a chance to turn on me again as soon as the threat’s over and the place is surrounded by cops?”

I pulled out a rubber chicken, swung it around like a nunchuk, then popped the head off it. I tossed it into the mouth of a fox head on the wall, which tried to chew on it. It blew the head and wall wide open.

Roberta scrambled over to the hole, reconning. “It looks like the billiard room.”

“Gods, man, that way’s closer to the exterior.” Ethan pointed to the side of the room where Meltman stood over Emilio’s ashes and a rapidly-growing fire.

I patted Ethan on the shoulder, “Fear not, then. We’ll be out of your hair in a minute. Well, you get the expression.”

With that, we extricated ourselves from the situation. I was right, the heroes could handle it. Granted, they wound up fighting a fifty foot woman with a head that resembled a horse’s head with tentacles, but I knew they were up to the task. As for me, I was up to evading the task force. No way would I allow Venus to take advantage of me after a fight wore me down.

Plus, there was another reason…

“We’re not heroes.” I told the Rejects again as we sped out of California in my car. We divided up between the car, trailer, and van, but I spoke to them all at the same time. “Heroes protect society. I saved the world the moment I killed Emilio Basford, so what are the heroes fighting for? Harridan’s already lost and they’re just rubbing it in some more. I mean, maybe I’d go to those lengths to humiliate someone, too, but I don’t set a very high standard for heroic behavior, now do I? By the way, kudos to whoever got this bobble head.”

Zane turned to me from the passenger seat. “Um, Gecko, that’s the little statue from the house.”


The Venus De Milo bobble head on the dash was indeed the same undulating artwork from Basford Manor. “Dammit, Moai, we don’t need anymore pets!”

From the back seat, the puppy Spike Smooshyface barked his enthusiastic agreement.

Ok, maybe I could have let Harridan destroy a little bit of the world. Just enough to get rid of long car trips with puppies that lack bladder control. Urine? I didn’t know you were out!



High Crass Criminal 9



In the days following our jailbreak of Ethan Basford, we spent a good amount of time preparing to escape from L.A. Confusion was key, though my crew of Rejects directed most of it my way. They didn’t understand why I wore an eyepatch. They didn’t bat an eye at long hair, stubble, and leather pants, but for some reason my apparent lack of an eye stood out more to the various mutated humanoids. Steve looks like he has no skin and muscles!

My plans tend to turn out interesting, but I felt the situation necessitated a way out. Ethan, all too happy to be out of that prison uniform, confirmed for me that my seeming invisibility to the police was a standard part of how the Trust operated.

“We use the same ability on ourselves. It has mundane uses: no parking tickets, no speeding tickets, no DUIs. We also made it work for other major organizations like Faustus,” he explained to me while we sat down at a cafe.

I just nodded while munching my Cuban sandwich. It’s not that I found the roast pork, ham, mustard, pickles, and Swiss cheese to be more important, either. Every time I pursued information from Faustus, I felt like stabbing something. Preferably a person. Sure, the enchanted Luger turned out to be merely a knockoff of Hitler’s sidearm, but the whole stash of relics couldn’t be ignored.

I swallowed what I had and asked, “What about Venus showing up? She had friends this last time, so does this not work for heroes?”

He tapped his finger on the table. He’d barely touched his sirloin sandwich.

“You’re not eating. Something wrong?” I inquired.
Ethan ran his hand over his bald head. He didn’t look up at me. Instead, he shifted his gaze over the table before letting out an exasperated breath. “It’s nothing. The friends I’m staying with, the vampires, there are a lot more of them than I thought. I think I might try veganism once I’m safe.”

“Oh, sure, torture the poor, defenseless plants, why don’t you?” I nommed a pickle from my sandwich.
He looked at me that time, but only to my chest. He gesticulated as he spoke, raising a hand as if holding me up. “Just great. You killed my daughter and all those others, but you’re worried about the feelings of plants.”

“Plants are good people,” I said between mouthfuls. “Every species of animal on earth is at least a little bit of a dick. Dolphins are gang rapists, monkeys have mastered fecal warfare, and don’t you even get me started on those little bunny bastards with their maniacal fluffy tails.”
Ethan rolled his eyes. “For crying out loud, what’s so evil about bunnies?”

“A species with powerful hind limbs for kicking that can breed uncontrollably? Clearly those fluffy-butted barbarians want to overwhelm the world, using their amazing hearing to seek out the last human heartbeats and chew through them with their big teeth.”

Ethan tilted his head, rolling his eyes up. “I can’t believe you’re my best chance at getting my life back.”

I shrugged. “True, normally I take lives instead. And I do so, in part, by looking harmless. Like a bunny.”

“Enough with the bunnies! Are you almost ready to do this thing?” he asked, meeting my eyes.

I shook my head. “No. I have to arrange a couple of things. We’ll need to skedaddle as soon as they realize I’m not on their side anymore.”

“Why aren’t you?”

I raised an eyebrow. “What now?”

Ethan leaned back as he asked this time. “Why aren’t you on their side? I beg your pardon, but you don’t seem the sort to care.”

I winked at him. “You got me. I don’t care about doing the right thing. I care about entertaining myself. I haven’t had much entertainment lately. Between the war with Hephaestus and these mind-numbing assassinations of your family, I’ve been terribly bored. I would like very much to leave this ugly little city behind and enjoy myself. But if you guys start the Ragnarok and tear up the whole planet, then it doesn’t matter. Y’all fucked up. I’ll clean up your mess because the world’s not so fun when it’s devoured by other-dimensional abominations. And if you’re lying, I can still kill you.”

That led to awkward silence for a couple of seconds as Ethan realized I might still kill him. I slapped the table, causing him to jump. “Well, time for me to go. I have another appointment. I promised myself I’d leave my mark on this town, and I have one last spot to hit up.”

“Do I want to know?”

I stood and grabbed a long ray barrel out from under the table. “Hehe… I wood if I were you.”

About two hours later, my cackles echoed through over Mt. Lee and through the Hollywood Hills. It was followed by humming and then crackling as I tried out a new arm-sized version of my famous Heatflasher. I sacrificed power, range, and cooling ability to make a version of the heat ray that could slide over my forearm. I also left my gang behind in case their presence would somehow trigger a huge team fight with the heroes when they inevitably showed up. I figured that if it was just me, maybe just Venus would show.

The downside to the new version of the weapon was that it fried the flesh of my left hand. I used my time in transit to slip into my armor, so at least most of the extremity had some protection. While I briefly wondered what sort of meat cuts come off of the hand and arm, I mostly stuck to my task: renovating the Hollywood sign. I’ve heard laughter is the best medicine, but I used it to distract me from the pain and the smell of burning meat.

I found it difficult to spell anything fun up there. If I’d brought along a crane and extra materials, I could have moved pieces of the forty-five foot tall letters. Without that, I carved what I could from the steel letters. It took creative use of the heat ray to knock the sign down to “I WOUlD”.

It made an excellent symbol of my frustrations with the place.

I expected a visitor at any moment even as I took a break to jump around and cuss up a storm. Fourth degree burns tend to make me want to hit stuff, so I was taking my frustration out on every damn molecule of air I could swing at. It didn’t help. I couldn’t even use the nanites with the damaged areas that hot. Objects that small don’t handle heat very well.

I didn’t have to wait long. All of a sudden, some glowing see-through blue ball with people inside came floating in on a collision course. I dove to the side, but it turned in midair and sent me rolling. I dragged myself to my feet and held my arms up. “Hold up a minute, Venus, we need to talk!”

Venus hopped out of the blue ball. Funny. I never realized blue balls traveled with her. She was joined by a teen girl in a skintight white costume. Multi-colored spirals spiced up the costume over the chest, one thigh, a calf, a shoulder, and a wrist. It wasn’t very symmetrical.

The forcefield ball thingy appeared to be the handiwork of the individual standing inside it. Another teen. He wore a light and tight costume as well: green and yellow with light blue dots on the chest and each of the legs. A pair of force balls broke away from the large one they traveled there in and moved out to the sides.

Venus displayed her willingness to talk by pulling out another one of those EMP field rods from behind her back.

“I’m serious, Venus. I know you got a stick up your ass, but we really need to talk. The fate of the world may be at stake!” Anticipating her disbelief, I cloaked my arms and holographically projected ones still in the air. I aimed for the rod in Venus’s hand. My HUD assisted in my aiming, helping me line up the shot on it.

Before I could fire, a small army of blue balls formed a wall in front of her. I superjumped over them since that saved time on turning. The EMP effect hit me less severely last time, especially as I got distance from them. I landed roughly, blinded and without enhanced strength. I felt drunk as well, due to brain cybernetics. I slid down onto one knee, then pushed up and tried to keep going.

I didn’t leave my feet, but I felt the world spin around me. My sense of direction fucked up big time and I spilled over to the side. With the ground firmly beneath me, I tried to crawl for it, but then something hard scooped me up and dropped me closer to the EMP.

Readers, if you’ve ever been shocked by static electricity, you know about what I felt like, only if it shocked you constantly through almost every nerve in your body.

I heard mumbling from a feminine voice and a masculine one. Someone tugged at my helmet. I grabbed at the arms, but the grabber pushed them away easily. I was so weak, a baby could have stolen candy from me.

By the way, that’s the only way that phrase works. If I started talking about kids taking candy from me, that would sound unfortunate. Especially since I got a van.

“That wasn’t so hard,” said the ball guy.

“That’s…what…she said,” I croaked out. I raised the finger, but somebody stepped on my hand. On the other side of me, the spiral girl tried to grab my arm Heatflasher, but cried out in pain.

That’s when something else covered my head and tightened around my neck, choking me. It ended with a loud smack and the person who stood on my hand thudded to the ground beside me.

“Don’t fight…over me. I’m sure y’all can…split my hidden treasure,” I finally got out, hoping someone was greedy.

Air moved over my face. Then I heard giggling. “Something funny up there?” I inquired.

“Nope,” said Venus. “Just making sure. You’re really blind now, aren’t you?”

“Blind as a lonely millipede after Valentine’s Day.”

After a moment of silence, I felt a hand grip my throat. She told me, “I’m not going to kill you. I don’t have to kill to solve my problems. We don’t have to kill. That’s how much better we are. But if you want me to listen to you here and now before we drag you into a little cell, you’re going to say please.”

My first instinct was to call her bluff and say something snippy. My second and third instincts liked that idea as well. They distracted from the part of me that swore I could hear explosions and smell smoke.

I had to get up and get away from the bomb. I had to stop my followers from disabling the shield. I was the only one who was ever there for them, no matter what. Now this? I-

Venus gave my throat a little squeeze, dragging me back to present times. “Well?”

“I’m thinking…”

“Really? You want to be that difficult? That’s what destroying a monument was worth to you? That isn’t very clever, by the way.”

I reached for her hand. At first she slapped my hand away “I know. Didn’t have a crane. Ok, I’ll say it…I can please a mare.”

“We should take him back now,” said the spiral girl.

“Yeah, we should.” Venus agreed. That caused the ole heart to beat a faster pace. She let me go. “Alright. BB, carry him with us back to the Academy.”

“Fuuuuuuuuuck.” I drew out the word as much as I could. “Ok, Venus. Please.”

“Please what?”

“Please don’t arrest me.”


“Please listen to what I have to say.”

She patted me on the head. “Good boy. I should have recorded that. Is that a blush?”

“No. Wait, yes. I’m wearing blush today. And a thong. I think I’m rubbing off on you, Venus.”

“You wish.”

“You offering?”

“You two should hook up,” said the boy probably called BB. There was a slapping noise from too far away to have been Venus.

I licked my lips as I considered how to solicit Venus’s aid for the upcoming fight. “You know, I can’t lead you to…the person who has been playing us…if you lock me up.”

“Playing us? Like how I keep running into you?”

I slowly nodded. “Let me tell you about a little group called the Trust…”



High Crass Criminal 8



It was Tuesday.

There I was humming along to Quiet Riot’s cover of “Mama Weer All Crazee Now”, making my approach toward the Los Angeles County Jail: the current residence of the last Basford on my list. I’d been skipping around anyway, so why not go for the end of the list? It turned out that last fellow was awaiting trial for a variety of charges, including light treason. I didn’t even know such a charge existed. That’s like getting a DUI for riding a drunk horse.

It was composed of a couple of larger buildings with a smaller center for administration. The gang and I, minus Moai and Rattler, flew far overhead on what was supposed to be a skydiving trip. I brought my very unusual group along for a day of fun, relaxation, and jailbreaking. So far, I was the only one having anything to do with the fun and relaxation.

The others were nervous. Part of that was because of the plane flight, part was from the intention to break into jail, and another part of it was because I forgot the parachutes on the ground. Which was fine with me. I had perfect confidence in the mini rockets I’d attached to everyone’s footwear of choice.

It seemed dangerous, but it was really a much safer choice than letting them parachute. After all, you’re only supposed to do a tandem jump your first time and there weren’t enough of the crew left alive to do the jump with us. Or even to fly the plane.

I did that on purpose, too. I needed these guys to help me out and search the other building. Now that I knew magic compelled Venus to somehow show up and interrupt my criminal acts, I needed to search two very large buildings in a short amount of time. I couldn’t just let my minions chicken out of the jump at the last minute. They could either jump and trust in their rocket boots, or they could stay and crash.

Still, for some reason that decision took them way too long to make.

Roberta tapped me on the shoulder, her claw thumping off my armor. “Excuse me, but what if we get turned upside down and can’t get our feet underneath us?” She waved one leg, showing off the boot I’d fixed a rocket to and torn the toes off of so she could claw things.

“Then you splat into the earth, dying a horrible, lonely death. Your corpse will fester and decompositional gasses will erupt from your rectum. You will smell bad. But that’s a risk I’m willing for you to take.”

“That…doesn’t…sound… goo-“

“Too late, everyone out of the bus!” I grabbed her arm and pushed her out. I turned toward the others in my crew, who stood around gaping like someone just kicked their friend out a plane. What an overreaction. I merely pushed her out the plane. Huge difference.

The others ran as I tried to round them up. More than that, they scattered. So I did what anyone would do in that situation. I charged up the energy sheath around my right hand and punched a hole in the belly of the plane. Then I bowed and jumped out after Roberta. My 360 display showed all four of the laggards took to the open skies rather than sit around on a plane crashing even faster.

Unfortunately, Roberta had a head start on everybody in both jumping and losing her mind. She flailed her legs madly about the air.

I needed to catch up to her, but a small obstacle stood in my way. Physics. The Law of Gravity, I think. One of the few laws I have found difficult to break. I activated my rocket boots early and hurtled through the air, using short bursts to retain fuel while slowly catching up to Roberta. Finally, I grasped her claw and gave her a thumbs up. That calmed her down.

I held her hand until it was time to fire off her rockets. By then, she was oriented the right way for touchdown. I fired off her and my rockets. Hers were staggered to slow her down and drop her safely onto the roof of one of the jail’s towers. Mine kept me in the air long enough to see the others to safety while I flew over to my tower.

Well, I almost made it to my tower. Instead, mine ran out of juice, smashing me against the wall and, eventually, the asphalt exercise yard. Little did you know before today that when someone breaks their rear wide open due to a flight miscalculation, it’s called an asphalt. Doesn’t matter if you’re improvising a jailbreak; the earth’s mass just doesn’t understand the gravity of the situation. What a masshole.

The others tore half their cell block tower apart by the time I turned my head around and everything mended. Alarms shrieked across the exercise yard. I checked over my suit’s systems as well. One of the good things about my armor is how hard it is to damage its capabilities. Another is that I get to run around with my balls free and clear while I commit crimes.

I charged up my arms with every intention of busting through the wall. They built ‘em solid, but very few things were ever made out of which I couldn’t tear a new one. Then I saw the door from the yard to the tower right next to me and all the grit and determination went out the door. I knocked the door off its hinges, though.

I heard surprisingly little noise aside from the alarms. Then again, the alarms were loud enough to make Hellen Keller sign “Shut the fuck up already!”

I stalked down the corridor, hoping to thin humanity’s near-infinite supply of dumbasses. How would I know they were dumbasses? For starters, they’d try to stop me. For fools like myself, that method has provided all the proof I’d ever need. Fool proof, you might call it.

The guards here were not as foolish as I had hoped. They had locked down the interior of the jail and kept their distance from me. It also meant they abandoned the prisoners to my attentions, whatever those may be.

“How we doin’ over there?” I radioed over to the other team.

Ray X answered me. “We met resistance initially. They’re no longer resisting. Now they have the jail on lockdown. We’re calling for Emilio Basford every time we reach living quarters. There’s been no luck, but a lot of people want to come along with us. That’s not surprising.”

“Just make sure whoever takes you up on being Emilio matches the description they gave us. A picture would have been easier, but you know these mages. Everything’s got to be a mystery, oooo, aaaah. Anyway, I’m in on this side now, so maybe I’ll catch him over here.”

“Right. We’ll see how it goes. Ray X out.”

“You know, Ray X, if you think about it, this is kinda fitting. A guy with a minority skin tone in a prison, having renamed himself and taken the last name X. You might see if your friends in the Nation of Islam can help you out. Pretend to be related to that Malcolm X guy.”

“Actually, Gecko, I’m of Asian ancestry. There’s so much messed up about what you just suggested that I can’t figure out if it offended me more about race or religion.”

“Maybe it’s because I hate everyone or because I don’t respect anyone, but I wasn’t thinking about it that way at all.”

I smiled as I made my way through a cafeteria area, scanning the prisoners. My HUD immediately dismissed most of them. The Basfords were of varying levels of intelligence and career ambition, but they were also as pasty as an Olympic bobsled team, excepting the Jamaicans.

I held out hope though. I believe in Jamaica.

“Is there an Emilio Basford in here? Rich, white collar type. Anyone know Emilio?”

It was a jail, though, not a prison. Few people took any real advantage of the chaos, and nobody gave up Emilio Basford’s whereabouts. My search proved fruitless until I got to the cell blocks. Then I found some fruit.

That’s unfair to say, actually. Steve, or Ray X as he renamed himself, would have a field day with my using that statement to describe walking in on a large, hairy fellow about to cornhole Emilio. I could tell it was the right cell by how familiar Emilio looked.

“Ahem,” I said as I peeked in their little dorm room. Emilio was bent over the bottom of a bunk bed, pants around his ankles. The other guy still hadn’t gotten his pants down, fortunately. “Is this a private function, or can anybody join in?”

“The hell are you?” asked the big guy with facial hair that would have made an American Civil War general proud. Probably a Confederate general, since we were in Los Angeles. Those Southern secessionists loved stars and bars.

“I’m here for that rat Basford right there.” I pointed to the man’s unwilling cellmate.

“Oh thank the gods you’re here,” the Basford said as he ran over and gave me a hug. “He was just about to do something horrible to me. I’ll give you anything: money, fame, the love of a beautiful woman.”

“Don’t offer me love with your pants down, buddy.” I told him.

The big guy stepped close, balling up his fists. “Now listen here-!”

He didn’t say much once I reached in and got rid of that pesky tongue of his. Mumbled a hell of a lot, though. I couldn’t make it out, but I believe he said a lot of cuss words.

“Thank you, thank you, thank you,” said Emilio as he hugged onto me. I pushed him away. Then I noticed something about his face and features. He looked a lot like my employer. Except he didn’t have hair or a beard. He didn’t have just the same vague family resemblance you always see. They looked like they were close in age.

“You know, you look a lot like the guy who hired me…”

“Emilio!” he declared, flaring in anger.

“That’s your name.” I projected a similar beard and hair onto Emilio. “Huh, spitting image.”

Emilio swiped at the images on his head. “No, Emilio is my brother’s name. My twin brother. That bastard swapped places with me. They locked me up thinking I was him. I don’t know why he sent you after me, but you can’t give me to him.”

I cleared the projection away and grabbed him by the arm. He hopped alongside me, pants still at his ankles. I called up the others. “I found him. Break off and rendezvous at the van with Moai and Rattler. We’ll be one heavy.”

“You have to let me go! I have money. I’m a big man in this world. I have connections with the vampires in Santa Monica!” He pleaded and pleaded until I backhanded him a couple of times.

“Relax,” I told the guy I just slapped. “I’m not handing you over to him. It’s probably the last thing I would do. Instead, you’re coming with me. Now either kick those pants off or pull them up. You’re slowing me down.”

Ethan Basford pulled up his pants. After a few seconds, I remembered that was his name. I had to review the conversation from when I met the honcho who hired me. This guy’s story seemed plausible, unless he had scrying abilities powered by anal rape. I hadn’t entirely discounted that.

Basford chose to pull his pants up. To each his own. “I knew he’d make a move. He sent you to kill me, didn’t he?”

I didn’t answer. I wanted to see where he went with this. Even if he turned out to be lying to me about everything, including being Ethan Basford, he probably had more answers than any other family member I could drag out of this.

“He said he was close to something. He taunted me with it when he replaced me.”

“The power?” I suggested.

“He wants it all to himself, but members of the Trust can’t kill each other. We can only act through intermediaries.”

“The Trust?” I tugged him along. Over the comms, I heard sounds of struggle.

“That’s what we were called at first. We are part of a line of practitioners stretching back 200 years, when the cabal first made their deal here. The lore says they were demons, but some of it has been exaggerated over time. We were gifted with greater magical ability and artifacts in order to help facilitate their arrival on our planet. The Trust would be spared. Then we would be left to rule what was left of everything.”

He slowed up while reminiscing, so I just tossed him over my shoulder. “Keep talking. It’s about time I got some answers about this whole mess. Like, what, all the others got wiped out?”

I caught him shaking his head in my display. “No. We’re like European royalty. The Trust intermarried to make sure the power wouldn’t spread too far beyond us, at least at first.”

“200 years…what, y’all couldn’t read the instructions to open the door?” I kicked out another door to the outside, ending up by the track out in the exercise yard again.

“It’s complicated. Most of us never wanted to destroy the world. We live the good life.”

I leapt. Advanced artificial musculature in my suit carried me to my destination in bounds beyond baseline humans. “Yo, guys, I’ve been hearing fighting. What’s going down?”

“Heroes.” It was Headgame, who I used to call Microencephalic Man. “This woman kicked Steve’s ass!” I heard a smacking sound. “Ow, I’m sorry. She kicked Ray X’s ass!” Another smacking sound, louder this time.

Then Meltman spoke up. “We got away, but they’re heading through the building into the other tower. Are you out?”

“I’m as free as a bird now, everyone. They just let you go?” I flapped my arms, and a screaming Ethan, as I fell to the ground. The pseudo muscles took some of the strain as weight reasserted itself, but my bones handled most of it.

“They said you were more important. Hey, did you kill the guy?”

Ethan squirmed at that.

“Nope, I got him here as a source of information. Get this, he’s the twin brother of the guy who hired us. Not only that, he says the other guy’s Emilio. Emilio swapped places with him to live his brother’s life while Ethan went to jail.”

Bonedancer added her two cents. “What about your contract? Isn’t that wrong for you to kill the guy who hired you?”

“Even if contracts and promises were sacred to me, what’s so wrong about killing Emilio Basford when that’s who I was hired to kill?”

And if the guy I carried out of jail to freedom turns out to be lying to me, what then? If I don’t like the story told to me about his attempts to cause an apocalypse, then he might just be Emilio Basford anyway.



High Crass Criminal 7



We have been busy little Asian giant hornets around here. On top of my mixed feelings over the Rejects, I couldn’t just accept that Venus being at the site of that. Now, I may be paranoid. Or am I? I’ll keep them guessing. Who? Oh, you know who… “them.”

Paranoia aside, I didn’t trust the random chance of Venus attending that children’s birthday party where my target just happened to be performing. If she knew I’d be there, she wouldn’t have been so clearly unprepared to defend my target. If she didn’t know I would be there, then that suggests someone put her there.

I never liked this situation. Wait, scratch that. I enjoyed the murdering part.

Anyway, she aroused my suspicions. SUSPICIONS, people. And only my suspicions. I know what you depraved beings think about, with your relationships and sex and bodily fluids flying all over the ceiling.

Suspicions aroused, I broke the group up so they could handle various intelligence-gathering tasks.

Larry, for example, found out that Faustus was so incompetent that they had no clue about some big magical family here.

“These people got voodoo, they got hoodoo, they got things they ain’t even tried. And they got friends on the other side,” I told Larry to tell them. He had a phone in his hand, the receiver covered. “And when you say it, imagine you’re mean. You need the mind of a pro wrestler on cocaine and the tone of an obnoxious person humping their hips while talking. I order you to talk like that on the phone now.”


“Last time I checked, I’m the king of this jungle. If anyone hopes to dethrone me, they’re gonna need to hump like a motherfucker. What makes that more difficult is that, in my case, they gotta be a necrophiliac to be a motherfucker.”

“I’m sorry to hear that-“ started Larry.

“Hump. The. Words.” I poked the air with each word to emphasize the point.

Rolling his eyes, Larry stood up. “I’m, sorry, to hear, that!”

“Meaner! More snarling! I want to see snot drip down your nose.”

“Snarghy, uh, oh, I think I swallowed something.” He shook his head as he tried to clear swallow it down.

I shook my head too, more so at his antics. “Amateurs. You act like it’s difficult, but it’s snot.”

The phone wasn’t on speaker, but I still heard a groan from whoever was on the other end.

“See?” I called out to the device in Larry’s hand. “Next time, tell us what we want to know. Funerals cost less than information.”

The voice on the phone responded quickly. “I’m sorry! We have a deal for two large, one-topping pizzas for twenty dollars. That’s all our specials, I swear.”

I looked at Larry, who shrugged. “Once I got done talking to Faustus, I got hungry.”

“Larry, your incompetence is matched only by your good judgment. You remain neutral in my eyes. You may as well ask them to add extra Swiss cheese on there.”

Later, after a greasy meal of pizza, we enacted my plan to determine how much Venus would be after me now.

It started when I walked into a bank. I took Tom and Mika with me, aka Rattler and Bonedancer. Mika, the handless girl, on a bank job? I know you need hands to carry bags of money. I’m all for being an equal opportunity offender, but that’s like hiring a blind man to be the getaway driver or an Englishman to be a chef.

I tried some bangers and mash once. It made me want to invade some place with better cuisine too. That night’s culinary rampage finally ended when I got bogged down in a Chinese buffet. Never start a land war in an Asian restaurant.

However, my much earlier goal of giving the town an enema necessitated that I pump some liquid assets out digitally. I intended on having my brain do the heavy lifting.

The three of us approached City National Bank in Los Angeles, blending in with our stolen van with the bikini chain mail dragon lady on the side. It was broad daylight on Friday. I had my armor on, though the only special weapons I loaded up were a stick. A regular stick. I considered taking a banana, too, but I’ve been on something of a banana kick lately.

Orange you glad I didn’t take the banana?

I parallel parked us. The Rolls-Royce ahead of us and Jaguar in back didn’t give me much room, but I worked with what I had. I started off by gentle nudging the Rolls Royce until I had just a tiny bit more room. They probably didn’t need that trunk anyway. Then I made careful use of the space in front of the Jaguar by backing into it just enough. Just until the headlights cracked and the hood crumpled. In the end, I had a good four feet of clearance front and back.

Instead of showing my armor, I created a hologram of myself as a homeless man with a dirty beard and grungy clothes. I charged ahead into the bank, holding the stick in the air above me. “Alright, everybody, this is a stick!”

Few people stood in the lobby on the first floor. There were two tellers, two guards in front, and three people in suits talking in a group. Large, shiny tiles made up the floor. The teller windows were built into a wall.

One of the guards, a slightly-overweight man with a buzz cut, rested his hand on his gun. He approached from the corner behind me and to the right. I left the hobo hologram there and approached him. My suit seamlessly showed the environment past me without the distinctive distortion effects of bent light. “Did you mean a stick-up?”

I appeared behind the guard and grabbed him by the back. I lifted him into the air and spoke, the hologram talking simultaneously. “Thank you. I’ll do just that.”

Then he got a stick up. Dear readers, by now you shouldn’t have to ask where. After I was done with him, I tossed that wheezing, crying sack of security out through a window.

Bonedancer and Rattler stepped in through the hole he made. “What happened to him?” Bonedancer asked.

“Bad attitude. He had a real stick up his ass.” I shook my head, then disappeared as the hobo turned into a holographic copy of myself. It faced the other guard, who spoke into his radio while holding a gun on us. Two more guards ran up from a corridor around a bend in the lobby, so I had the hologram split off another two projections.

“You two might want to get somewhere those guns aren’t pointing,” I mentioned quietly to Bonedancer and Rattler. She grabbed him by the forearm and ran to the side. They ducked behind a couple of upholstered chairs. Those things were worth little protection of the guards aimed that way, but they were more concerned with the three of me that they saw.

The holograms huddled up and I provided the voice of whispers as they went over the game plan. One of them poked its head out and I called to the guards, “Hey! Just how loose are your sphincters?”

That’s when the guards opened up on them.

With my battle cry of “Shoot first, ass questions later,” the holograms ran right into the middle of the trio. Right straight in the middle. They all set themselves for a point between two of the guards. The guards fired some nasty guns that punched fist-sized holes in the floor and walls. Unfortunately for them, they were shooting at images that weren’t solid at all. They squeezed their triggers and prayed, then crumpled to the ground as much holier men.

The holograms disappeared as I reappeared. I walked up to the teller window, where they had drawn a metal shutter down. I knocked on the shutter. “Hello in there! Just curious, what are your policies on employee pensions and funeral expenses?”

Bonedancer dragged Rattler over and tapped me on the shoulder. “Um, what do you want us to do right now?”

“Go keep an eye out. You two are obviously the muscle on this one.”

She glanced over at the dead bodies of the guards. “Right.”

“They’re just dead bodies, Bonedancer. They’re probably not going to stand up and come after you. Hey, wait a moment. I need you to punch a hole for me.” I pointed to the teller shutter. I could have gotten into it on my own, but she wanted to know I brought her for more than just backup.

She nodded and stepped over. She gave the shutter an experimental push and scrape. Then she reared her arm back, the bone glinting. That glint disappeared when she thrust forward, spearing a hole through the shutter.

I doubted her normal strength could have handled that. Maybe I should have called her Holepuncher. I patted her on the shoulder. “Good job. Keep an eye out if you want. Maybe keep Rattler from gnawing on the rubber trees.”

Dancer’s face scrunched up quizzically until she looked past me to wear Rattler was gnawing on one of the fake plants. She skated off to get him, her glinting, spiky legs carving fluid lines into the tile floor.

I tore the hole open wider and peeked in. A stapler caught me in the visor as one of the tellers shrieked. “Quiet! Damn, lady, what are you still doing in here?”

I pulled myself through the window. All the while, the woman sat on the floor, throwing stuff at me and continuously pressing on the silent alarm button. Another stapler came my way. A cup of pens. A stack of business cards. A bundle of hundred dollar bills. I kept that last one.

Meanwhile, an open door attested to the escape of the other teller.

I ignored the woman while I used a free hand to get into the bank’s system. They didn’t handle a lot from the teller level, but they had a secure network. Networks are only as strong as their weakest link, but I am not a hacker in the conventional sense. I had to be a part of their system, with their own credentials. I scrambled all sorts of things, transferring money to accounts all over the world, including ones having nothing to do to me. My accounts will then launder them to others.

As the bank of celebrities, City National has become known for expedited money transfers. Just laying that out there.

“Hey, crazy lady. You know, I can’t help but see from here…that silent alarm button isn’t connected.” Sure enough, the wires along the wall were severed somehow.

The woman noticed it too, then lunged for the button underneath. As soon as her finger touched it, the lights and computers turned off. “Huh,” I said, looking around. “Not exactly a formal scientific experiment, but that’s potentially some pretty strong evidence right there.”


I looked down at the panicking teller scrabbling on the floor. She took her finger off the button and the power outage ended immediately. She looked at the lights, then at me.

I shook my finger at her. “I’m not sure you should do that. There’s some magic at work here. On the other hand, maybe you should do it. We’ll be able to see just how powerful of magic we’re talking about.”

She hesitated, then reached for the button again. Before she could connect, the building shook. The didn’t go out this time, but a coffee mug on a shelf vibrated off and broke over my helmet.

“Huh…yeah, that’s some big mojo right there. Well, nice working with you.” I booted her in the face, then dove out the teller window.

Standing up and brushing off, I turned to find Rattler and Bonedancer hiding from the quake behind the chairs again. Oh, and a woman stepped through the window asking if everyone was alright.

She was there in civilian clothes, but I could tell by her eyes and body shape. Venus.

“Gecko,” she said, eyes narrowing. Reaching into her purse, she whipped out thermos-sized device. I didn’t know what it was, but it probably wasn’t good. I ran for her. Not hesitating, she pressed a button that caused it to extend. She slammed the bottom into the ground before it even finished.

The effect was instantaneous. Every biological part of my body seemed to seize up. Cramps, pressure, heaving. On top of that, my armor and all of my cybernetic parts shut down. The near-constant undercurrent of outside connections died, as did my eyes. I fell, couldn’t control it, then dropped all the way. I had trouble understanding what happened at the time as the prosthetic portion of my brain shut down.

I just knew I was angry and possibly, maybe, just a teeny weeny bit afraid for lack of a better word.

The secret, I think, was that it didn’t let up. The field created by the device didn’t let up. It fucked me up.

Then it let up and all my systems restarted. I found myself still laying on the ground, the shattered device right in front of my head. Bonedancer stood there, a forearm spike driven through the middle of Venus’s toy.

Off to the side, Rattler was occupied with Venus. The mouth of his shriveled-looking head was opened unnaturally wide. The biggest millipede I ever saw extended from that mouth. It was wrapped around Venus and held her in the air.

Bonedancer offered an arm. I took her up on that. The technology was willing, but the flesh was weak. Before I could decide Venus’s fate one way or the other, Rattler tossed her through a window, then retreated into the head.

Bonedancer helped me out while Rattler followed along. We saw no sign of Venus outside. “Think I’m good to drive, ‘dancer?” I asked her.

“I don’t know. Do you think you’ll get a ticket?”

I chuckled. “We just robbed a bank and the attempt to call the cops on us made a small earthquake. Something’s watching out for us. I’m not sure I want them billing me for that quake, either.”

I opened the door and climbed into the driver’s seat. Behind me, Bonedancer rubbed gently at her temple with a spike. “But why did the hero show up?”

“Because someone at least as strong is sending her after me. Maybe another Basford. Either way, I’m feeling a bit like a pawn here.” Then, to the third member of our party, who was fumbling with the side door, I said “Come on, Rattler, let’s shake and roll.”
Bonedancer ran around and followed him, then crawled up to the passenger seat. “I thought you accepted that. Um, a little, I mean. Not completely. You hired yourself out to this man.”

“I’m like to let people point my destructive nature in a certain direction, yes, but I’m no pawn. If I’m anything, I’m a queen.”

With that I started the van to get us back to base, the radio playing right at the beginning of the song “It’s Raining Men.”



High Crass Criminal 6



I’ve had time to realize how glad I am that such an easy task fell into my lap. I thought I could just take it easy after the small war I fought for most of this year. Murder lots of people who are related to each other. It would be simple if it wasn’t for everything else. Getting that suit of armor off Carl and out of his spinal column was simple.

Trying to get the Rejects to move on? That was not so simple.

They stuck around. They all seemed so oblivious to the idea that I had no clue what to do with them. I didn’t sign up to be their babysitter. Didn’t they ever uncover families, friends, and lives to go back to?

I brought that exact thing up at a meeting with all of them on Monday, Labor Day.

“Umm…no,” Steve told me when I confronted the gang about it. “I saw my file. I had a wife and kids, but I have no memory of them and I look like this now.” He spread his arms wide and showed off his clear body and visible skeleton.

I’ve heard worse as far as arguments go. It seemed a common argument for the Rejects, as Steve’s explanation got nods all around.

“I never found out who I am,” Roberta said, her mouth tube and eye stalk drooping. She petted Spike Smooshyface with her claws. Even the pup looked morose.

Mika spoke up next. She rubbed her boney spine forearms against one another, giving the room of our abandoned video store a soundtrack of bone scraping on bone. “Is…is it really so bad to have us around?”

I glanced around at them. Even Moai stood judging me. “This is about me ruining that statue a few days ago, isn’t it?” I asked him. He didn’t answer. “It’s not like you can’t find another. Besides, I saved you a hot piece of ass from that.” I pointed over to the folding table we used for meals. The statue’s broken hip section sat in the middle as the centerpiece.

It worked for a dining area decoration. After all, it showed off the loin and rump.

But back to the question at hand. Moai moved to block my escape before I could go kill someone without giving a straight answer. I answered because of that, in part. The other part was part of the problem. “Yeah, guys. It’s not fun having you around. See, I like y’all.”

“You hardly spend time with us now,” interrupted Larry, who looked like a melted man.

“That’s because of all this. See, I like y’all more than I should. Originally, I had no qualms with dragging y’all to that building to kill Hephaestus Prime. Then they turned out to have the full squad of anti-me villains hanging around. I could have won. Most or all of y’all would have died, probably, but I would have won. But because I like y’all too much, I gave you an out and sent Moai to make sure y’all took it. This is not who I am, and it’s annoying the hell out of me.”

“Maybe you have a conscience,” said Zane, the pointy-faced one.

My hand made a loud slapping sound as it slammed into my forehead. “See?! Most people would die for saying something like that to me. Even if I spare y’all, though, you have to see the other major problem in all this. I saved y’all. I was beat up, captured, stripped naked, and was given a full dental removal and replacement in short order. That’s how the real world rewards selfless gesture, especially when running in the circles I do.”

As usual, it didn’t take me long to derail the conversation. “Like that damn Venus. I didn’t kill her. I had a few chances to kill her and instead I let her live. Now she and her buddies are obsessed with locking me up to the extent that they may have had something to do with all that Hephaestus crap. Heh.” I actually began to laugh then. “You know, I’m supposed to be the evil one, but I never planned to keep Venus locked up in a tiny cage for the rest of her life. Unlike what she wants to do to me! Hahahahahaha! Phenomenal cosmic power; itty, bitty, tiny living space.”

I guess you had to be there to enjoy the humor. Then again, no one else laughed at the time. In fact, things got real quiet until I held out my arms and said, “I can’t let you stay with me unless you’re willing to be criminals.”

Steve spoke up. “We have no money.”

“I can fix that,” I said.

“We have no family connections or friends,” said Mika, bowing her head.

“We don’t have any high school or college degrees,” added Larry.

“I don’t have a driver’s license or Social Security number,” Zane chimed in.

Roberta scuttled over to me. She rose up on her back four legs and stretched the front two and her mouth tube toward me. “Do you think anyone’s going to want me to work a register?”

I looked her over. “Maybe if you wore a tube top?”

She crossed those upraised arms and tapped one of her other claws on the floor.

“Alright, fine.” I pinched the bridge of my nose. “But first thing’s first: you’re gonna need codenames.”

And there was much rejoicing.

The Basford job even provided an excellent opportunity to show them off.

An excellent opportunity indeed seeing as one of Basfords tried to make it as a stage magician. He had a children’s birthday party on Tuesday. Zane found him for me easily. Turns out he shared my sense of humor about how amusing it was for people to post everything about themselves online. The same crowd that’ll complain about wiretapping and email interception will go out and proudly proclaim what they’re doing every day on Facebook, Tumblr, and Twitter.

In the midst of all that, it’s a wonder that any government needs to spy on their own citizens. At this point, I imagine most intelligence agencies would rather have another sister agency that specializes in hiding all the really freaky online stuff from them.

Who do the CIA, FBI, NSA, ATF, and DEA call when they find out about your secret moray eel teabagging fetish? The TMI, of course.

While Zane dug up that info, Steve secured us transportation. His skill in grabbing someone and screaming in their face contributed heavily to this. The new van even featured a classy mural on its side: an anthropomorphic female dragon in a chainmail bikini holding a sword out as she’s attacked by a fire-breathing nude human man.

Roberta and Larry scouted the place the night before. Moai and Mika picked up some simple and generic domino masks for the group. Tom sat around and made bags of potato chips disappear. I’d look away, hear something crinkle, then turn to find an entire bag gone except for a few shreds of the bag itself.

When the day came about, we were ready. We sped into the park area, bouncing over hills. ZZ Top’s “Tush” boomed from the stereo, and a few of us couldn’t help but join in. I turned the wheel and pressed on the brake along with the gas as we approached the playground area. While we drifted, I briefly wondered if we would tip. I also wondered if I knew what I was doing.

In the end, we skidded all the way around in a loop, broke through the fence, and then skidded again so the rear of the van bumped against Marion Basford. I never knew Marion could be a guy’s name. Ah well, my new home dimension has taught me many things, so what’s one more?

Marion Basford, the stage illusionist of the family, fell flat on his face in front of a gaggle of giggly girls and boys. The doors burst open and the team piled out, all in masks. I went first, wearing a sequined purple suit with a top hat and a cane with a microphone built into it.

I really wore that thing. Mika claimed it was Moai’s idea, but Moai fingered Mika. I meant he pointed the finger at her. Probably not the middle finger, as they pointed that in my direction by getting me the outfit.

I tapped the cane against the floor, then glanced down and tapped it on Marion’s head. That got some laughter from the kiddies, who were all dressed in little masks and capes of their own. Superhero theme. Serendipitous. “Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, children of all ages, we are proud to present your entertainment! I’ll be your Master of Ceremonies and the ringleader of this little squad of the strange: Psycho Gecko! And this is my lovely assistant Moai!”

Moai hopped out, landing on Marion’s legs with a crunch. Marion’s very real screams coaxed more laughter from the kids. Looking past them, I could see parents outside the fence. Like the kids, they reacted like it was all part of the show, something to break up the terrible cacophony of a children’s party. Some of them wore kid-sized masks or miniature capes of their own, and I thought I even saw a cosplayer before she ducked behind someone else.

Before I could step to the side, Moai dropped to his side behind me and rolled toward me. I managed to hop on top of him and kept up as he rolled forward and back, and even to the side so the others had more room.

“And here’s the rest of the gang of Rejects!” They all filed out, with me announcing them in turn. Headgame waved and stretched out his arm. It narrowed like his head as he reached over to high five me. Bonedancer dropped out behind him and did what she explained to me as a “fouetté en tournant” thingy. It’s normally where a dancer kinda stays in one place, loups their arms in front of them, and rotates with one leg outstretched a bit. In her case, her boney leg carved a hole in stage just below Marion’s groin.

Marion concerned himself more with crawling toward the edge of the stage.

Bonedancer leapt to the side. Despite her appearance, she was quite graceful. In contrast, Meltman waddled out. Those parents disturbed by Bonedancer’s appearance didn’t much care for the droopy, melty person in front of them, but the kids loved it as he took a breath and spat fire into the air. They giggled even more as he followed it up with a burp and then a modest “Sorry” to the crowd. He went for another burst of flame, but it was interrupted by a blast of wind and a bang.

That caused Marion to go “Eep!” and pull himself the rest of the way off his stage, where he thumped to the rubber playground floor covering below.

Both the bang and wind issued from a tube snaking out from Meltman’s back. He stepped aside to show the crowd the leggy, alien appearance of Winsect. She wanted to call herself Blowberta, but every guy in the building vetoed that by shaking our heads and saying “Nooooo,” in perfect harmony. I convinced her to go with something that played on her strange appearance, her ability to spit those little sonic boom air blasts, and her natural affinity for winning.

Hence the name Winsect.

The last two came out at once. By now, parents were dragging their kids away. They tried, at least. The parents were scared, but the kids were big enough to find this cool as shit. They looked to be eight or nine, maybe even ten. As bad as I’ve been at estimating distances and size, I’ve never been all that good at ages either.

Ray X dragged Rattler out with him. The clear-skinned skeleton man shook his hollow-headed partner like a magic eight ball, eliticing more laughter from the young members of the audience. Ray bounced Rattler’s head from hand to hand as he activated his own abilities. Violet and pink strings of plasma arced from his bones to his clear skin. The filaments illuminated patches of see-through skin as they stopped there. He let one filament escape one eye and formed an arch to his other eye.

My own enjoyment of the light show was interrupted by a voice that called out, “Gecko!”

I slumped as I turned to the woman standing between us and the bulk of the crowd. Venus had joined the evacuation. Her costume was complimented by a child’s cape. Of all the superhero birthday parties for everyone to converge on, eh? “Damn, woman, you’re like Visa: everywhere I want to be.”

“What are you here for?” she asked, busy pulling kids behind her. It appeared they were of the utmost importance to her. I realized I could use that.

“Well, you know me, lovely Venus. I live to rampage and cause collateral damage, but today I’m here for one man.” I pointed down at the stage magician who had been left behind by everybody. “Now, if I kill him, I suppose I’ll just pack up and leave. But it’d be a bad idea for anyone to be too close, so maybe you ought to see those folks off. You wouldn’t want the kiddes to see what comes next, would you? Exposure to murder like that can do interesting things to a young and malleable mind, can’t it?”

I smiled at that. Venus gently pushed the kids hiding behind her back so that they would hopefully run for it. Two of them did, but a girl stayed behind, silently watching. Venus didn’t notice her and instead slid into her fighting stance. Her fists were ready for another date with my face. Too bad for them that my intention was to stand Venus up this time.

“Yes, fighting, that’s an option too. You know, except for the part where our fight spills over into the huddled masses. That’s a great judgment call to make.”

Venus said something to herself. She spoke too softly for me to hear, but the girl standing behind her spoke up and said, “I didn’t think heroes were allowed to say that word.”

The heroine’s eyes went wide and she froze. She spun ninety degrees and grabbed the girl. She kept one eye on us as she ran with her to join the rest of the escapees.

“Did you see the look on her face?” I asked Moai. That did it. We all had ourselves a good chuckle on stage there. Unfortunately, I played the bad guy and shushed them all. “Ok, guys. Someone fire up the van. Let’s make sure it works. The rest of you form a picket line so Venus doesn’t double back. Stay close enough to help one another. We have to look like y’all could potentially go after those children if she came after me. We clear?”

I got nods all around, even from Winsect’s tube.

I gave them time to get away before I dropped down and approached the splayed-out magician. I wanted the others away for the reasons I gave them. I also knew enough about desperate people and the Basfords to be wary of them stepping between me and a trickster with access to the kinds of relics this family had.

I stuck the cane under him and levered him over onto his back. He blinked as he looked up at me, shaking his head. “Why?”

“M, C, A. Any last words?” I asked the imperiled prestidigitator, spinning my cane around in circles. My only regret, I knew, was not getting a chance to defenestrate the prestidigitator. I’ve wanted to do that since I first learned English.

“Yeah,” he said, fighting throught the pain to present determination through clenched teeth. “Achtung, motherfucker.” Out of nowhere, an old Luger appeared in his hand. I grabbed for it and turned my body away. At the moment I would have touched it, two things occurred. He fired and the gun disappeared. Technically, you could say that him missing was a third event, but that’s semantics. The old weapon appeared in his other hand. He took a moment to wave it and show off the swastika with four eagles around it. Damn Nazi occultists. I went to backhand it away, but it disappeared again.

The annoying Luger legerdemain continued, as did four more misses. Getting fed up, held up both hands, then took the cane in both. With my left hand, I wiggled the microphone head as if trying to pull it off for a trick. With my right, I gribbed lower down on the shaft. That made it easier when I swung the cane down and caught Marion with an audible ball shot just as the Luger appeared.

I took it out of his hands and waved it myself this time. “Doesn’t matter how fancy a toy you have if you don’t know how to play with it.”

I aimed it directly at him. He threw his hands over his face and clenched his eyes tight.

I lowered my aim and fired three times. He cupped his groin and tried to scream. The pain was actually so intense that it choked the scream into something much quieter. He put up no real resistance then as I made the world’s most disappointing lollipop out of him and my cane. His objections quieted even more as I lifted him like that, and they went completely silent as I dropped him and kicked upward.

When he landed, I threw my arms wide. “Ta da! It’s gone!”

I missed the cane almost immediately, but no way would I talk into that mic again. I didn’t particularly care for the gun either. I’d tried to unload it, but the magazine slide didn’t work. A closer examination showed absolutely no seam. None whatsoever, like the manufacturer made it that way. I took a seat in the back of the truck as I examined it.

Ray X, aka Steve, looked back from the driver’s seat. “Cool gun.”

“Hey,” I told him, “go round up the others. We’re done here.”

“How did we do?” he asked before sliding out of his seat.

“Not too bad, Ray X. We upstaged the main act, and as far Venus is concerned, I’d say we stole the show.”



High Crass Criminal 5



I had a small bit of drama lately. Lovely. Not from the mess with the Basford family, either. I just finished looking over the map my mutated minions made regarding the Basfords. Their faces appeared where they lived. If they had a job, it was represented as well.

I looked it over, glad the others were getting something done. My own efforts with Faustus didn’t go as well. Before I could get back to them about their ignorance, I had to deal with the dog licking my hand.

I pulled it back instinctively. In my life, more things have attempted to eat me than have licked me in a friendly way. Nothing should express friendship by tasting you. Instead, like cats, they should show ownership by rubbing their scent on you.

Tried to slide my armpits over Moai once, actually. He expressed his displeasure with the idea using a knife.

Back to the puppy. There was a fucking puppy in my base! And my base was a fucking leftover video store!

I grabbed my rocket sax off the shelf and picked up the pup. I carried it through the curtained-off area surrounding the map and into the main area. The Rejects sat around on beanbags, chatting and taking turns fighting each other on a video game.

“What is this?” I asked, holding up the wiggling pup by the scruff of its neck.

Zane, the man with the macro microencephaly, spoke up. “We’re not sure, but we think it’s part Labrador, part Pit Bull.”

Roberta flopped her mouth tube over her body to address me while she played. “We call it Mr. Smooshyface!”

Tom, the guy with the shriveled-looking head and the lack of eyes, shook his head with a rattling and scratching noise. Mika, looking sullen with her lack of hands, spoke up as if to translate, “We’re not calling him Mr. Smooshyface. We’re calling him Spike.” She pointed a bony spine at Roberta as if to emphasize the name.

“Smooshyface!” yelled Roberta and Zane. Moai moved to stand on their side of the room.

“Spike!” countered Steve, the man with the see-through body. Mika shouted along with him, and Tom rattled his head as if in support.

I looked around and noticed Larry concentrating on the game. “What about you, Larry?”

Without looking up, he said, “Um…Switzerland.”

Placing my hands on my hips, puppy now pawing at my leg from my grip, I glared at him. “That’s disgusting. What makes a man turn neutral? Lust for gold? Power? Or were you just born with a heart full of neutrality?”

The puppy barked, so I set it on Larry’s head. He tried to dodge as it gained its bearings and licked him, interrupting Larry’s attempt to break Roberta’s winning streak. I pointed my sax at the squirming, makeshift wig. “What are you doing getting a pet? Y’all are driving me crazy, and I’m a homicidal maniac. I can barely keep track of all y’all as is. In fact, weren’t there like two others who came with us? What happened to them? I don’t even remember their names.”

Steve answered that one. “Oh yeah, Malcolm and Lu. She got a job as a radio host, and he’s a stuntman. He said they got him doing some cool stuff related to this kaiju movie about the pacific. Don’t worry, they’re not coming back.”

I facepalmed. “This is the kind of stuff that turns me into a pirate with a motorized ballsack. I’m not the ‘team’ kinda guy, so this is driving me nuts. Unless y’all get comfortable with the idea of killing people who aren’t related to what happened to you, we’re going to have to figure this shit out.” I paused for a moment, looking around at each of the Rejects. Even Larry and Roberta met my gaze, though Roberta tapped away at the control pad in her claws.

The silence was broken by Roberta finishing off Larry’s character, eliciting an “Aww, man,” from him. It was followed by a growl as the puppy, Spike Smooshyface, chewed on one Roberta’s other claws.

Finally, I continued, “Now, first thing to figuring this all out…is y’all get started deciding where y’all are going off on y’all’s own without me. Moai, I need another ‘plus one’ for this brunch I got invited too. It’s someone on our list, too. Wear your poker face so they don’t get suspicious. Yeah, just like that.” I shot him finger guns, then walked to the door and then the trailer without making eye contact with anyone. Not even Spike Smooshyface.

Moai and I took the car. With the old movie store’s power on, it could handle the trailer. I can’t be completely sure, but I think Moai glared at me the whole way. He certainly stared in my direction, that’s for sure.

The directions from the invitation took us up a building and around to a sparsely-occupied restaurant. The windows faced out over the ocean. It would have been a nice view if I had a water fetish.

“Here’s your table, sir. I’ll send the waitress around momentarily.” The host motioned to a table with an older woman busy reading the menu. To her credit, she hadn’t resorted to plastic surgery. Even for a guy used to a world where people make use of genetic engineering and cybernetics, I never saw so many plastic-looking people until recently.

“Hello there,” I said to the woman I came to meet. “You must be…” I raised up the letter I’d gotten. I never figured out how they found my current address. Yet another unanswered question. “Wilhemina Ponson née Basford.”

“I’ll have another glass of wine.” She didn’t look up, just held up a glass that hadn’t yet been fully drained of wine. I took the glass from her and tossed it overhead behind me. Then I pulled out chairs for Moai and myself.

“I’m sure you will, and we’ll have something too. Until then, I’m Psycho Gecko and this is my associate, Moai Moaingson the Third, Esquire. You can call him Moai.”

She took a moment to get this all figured out. When the notes on her said she wasn’t the sharpest tool in the torture shed, I figured it was just an insult. Seeing how she really acted, I wondered what kind of threat she could actually pose. Then I remembered that she could have been an idiot with access to enough power to destroy half the world. Even if she didn’t destroy my half of the world, I didn’t want her anywhere near that kind of mojo.

After all, if the other half of the Earth goes, how will I get vodka and sake?

“I beg your pardon, Mr. Gecko. Or should I call you Psycho? Oh, please, make yourself at home. Waitress! Oh waitress! I swear, the service here is normally top notch, but they have a new girl today…” She snapped her fingers and looked around for the waitress.

“Yes, ma’am, how may I help you?” The waitress appeared suddenly, outfit a little ruffled. Her hair stuck out in places and her shirt didn’t tuck into her pants. Maybe they sent her to us because of her resemblance to Wilhemina. Either way, the old lady did get more wine. I got a screwdriver and ordered water on the rocks for Moai, with extra rocks.

“I understand your family really wants me to kill…well…your family.” I opened up the conversation right after our drink order.

“I see you have spoken to others already. You still came to me. Good move.” She smiled at me, then reached down to her purse. She set an ornate hand mirror on the table.

“Ah, that’s your artifact?” I asked her.

She nodded. “Yes, this one is mine. We each get to pick from the trove. As strong as these are on their own, imagine how powerful we could be if only we received the full inheritance of our family? I wouldn’t have to wait so long for wine, huh?”

She reminded me of a story I once read about a warmongering king whose adviser kept asking him what he’d do after conquering this kingdom and that kingdom. When they ran out of kingdoms to discuss, the king said that if he conquered all that, he’d probably spend all his time listening to musicians and drinking. The adviser then asked why he didn’t just do that instead of trying to conquer the world.

And that, they say, is the story of how Rolling Stones singer Keith Richards switched to cocaine. Or maybe it was Frank Zappa. Either way, it was a lovely allegory.

“From what I’ve seen, you’re rich enough that you don’t really have to wait.” Next to me, I noticed Moai looking at a nude marble statue. The sculptor went with a realistic Greek style, meaning it had a heaping helping of T and A. Moai nudged my shoulder when he caught me looking too.

I couldn’t help it. The sculpture had a rockin’ body.

It didn’t matter that I ignored Wilhemina, as the return of the waitress interrupted her.

“About time!” She took her glass directly from the tray to her lips. The waitress tittered, then set mine and Moai’s down. After gulping down a little of her wine, ‘Mina pulled her purse up to the table and grabbed a pen. Then she pulled a napkin closer and asked the waitress, “What’s your name, young lady? I want to know who to complain about.”

The waitress bit her lip. “Valencia.” I prepared myself to throw cash at her. I never noticed that sounds so much worse when the waiter is a woman.

“Valencia. I have a daughter with that name and I would hope she never turns out to be as irresponsible as- You!“ ‘Mina took a break from her lecture to actually look up at the waitress. Her eyes went wide. She opened and closed her mouth, doing an excellent imitation of a sea bass that drank like a fish. She didn’t play it so koi with her own daughter. “What the hell do you think you’re doing here?!”

The waitress stuck her chin out and held her head high. “I’m working, mother. That’s right. I’ve held done a full day’s work. In fact, I’ve done almost…” she held up her fingers and counted off four. “…almost a full week.”

It seemed the nut didn’t fall too far from the tree.

Wilhemina stood up, gathering her things. She shook with rage. “I have never seen anyone dishonor our family like this!’

“You’re just mad that I’m no longer completely dependent on you. You can’t stand that I have my own money. And who knows? Before long, I might have my own hopes and dreams, too!”

I stood as well, but stayed out of their little argument. I tapped Moai on the shoulder and led him over to the sculpture we were ogling earlier. I got the bottom and he carried it by the top while they were busy.

See? I’m not opposed to helping people pick up women. When I see people on the side of the road with corpses wrapped in chains, I’m always willing to help them seal the deal with a watery burial.

We hauled it toward the door when suddenly I slipped. And by slipped, I mean it was as much an accident as all those times I accidentally gave people prostate exams with my fist. I pushed the statue around so that it bumped Valencia and Wilhemina toward the fabulous view of the water. They stumbled toward it. I punctuated my continuing slip-up by yelling “Whoopsy daisy!” and kept pushing them toward the window.

The women braced themselves on the window, probably thankful for its strength. Then I swung the head of the statue against it. The glass shattered and the women couldn’t catch themselves too well on the sharp shards. Unfortunately, my enthusiasm overwhelmed my inertia and I wavered on the edge of the building. I saved myself by throwing my legs out from under myself and falling flat on my back.

“Did we get them? I didn’t check to see if the younger one was on the list.” I asked Moai. He didn’t answer, too busy trying to stabilize the sculpture. He swung around in a circle before it stuck out the window again and fell from his grasp. I rolled to my feet to join him in looking out over the edge as it fell. I also pulled up my copy of the map on my eye HUD.

The statue thudded and shattered as it smashed down on the two bodies far below. I threw a fist in the air. “Yeah…looks like we definitely got them. And good news, both of them were on the list. How do you like them apples?”

I turned to Moai and held up my hand for a high five. He didn’t return it. “Hey man, I’m sorry about the statue, but it’s not like we know many people who can bring that kind of stuff to life.”

Moai just looked at me.

I pointed my finger right in his face. “Besides, I just got done getting onto the others. Can’t have you bringing someone new into the group. I don’t know what to do with the people we got.”

Moai still stared.

“Whatever, be like that.” I turned and started walking toward the exit while shocked patrons and staff hurried to the window.

Moai followed. I tried to think of something to cheer him up, and that reminded me of something important. I snapped my finger. “That’s it! You’re right, I am being unfair.” I pointed my dangly broken finger at Moai. “Remind me to call up Carl and tell him to kill off whoever he gets to help him out when he’s done buying stuff. We wouldn’t want this turning into a criminal organization, now would we? Definitely not. I hate organization.”

Moai shook his head and just tilted down all mopey.

“Cheer up, won’t you? After all, we just killed two birds with one stone.”



High Crass Criminal 4



“Yo, Carl, how’s it hangin?” I asked, taking a call from my recently-rescued minion in my helmet. Meanwhile, I was busy mapping out the list of targets given to me by Basford.

“It’s alright, boss. Things were tense at first. I missed a few visits.” He didn’t sound too happy at that.

“Your ex didn’t try to take away visitation or force you to pay a lot more, did she? I’m telling you, say the word and I’ll see what dripping hellbeast we can summon from the depths of Tartarus to take her to court. Preferably something with slick hair-like spines and relatively straight fangs.”

Basford had given me a list of names and addresses for his extended family. I also responded to a few invites or called some of them up. They all wanted to offer me the same job of slaying their family. By putting in multiple appearances, I confused any understanding of my intentions for everyone but the main son of a bitch himself.

“No, boss. That’s alright. I smoothed things over with my back pay. They don’t know what I do, but now they know somebody imprisoned me. They don’t think it was the cops, either. They checked. Boss, I’m not sure I want to head back so soon. Is there anything you need over here?”

Good question. I missed him. I couldn’t wait for him to get back here and help Moai and I out. But I had a few too many people already with the Rejects still inexplicably hanging around, taking up all kinds of space. The final frontier. These were the voyage of the USS Enterguys.

But I digress. Do I ever digress.

I also thought of something Carl could do for the near future, at least until we got back to Empyreal City.

“Real estate,” I said. “We need a new base over there. My own apartment building at least. I need places I can build a base under or inside of. You buy me somewhere new to keep my stuff and then we’ll meet up again. If I give you access to an account, do you think you could do that for me?”

“I think I’m gonna need the help of a real estate friend of mine, boss.”

“That’s fine, Carl. What’s one more person? Somehow I’ve become a popular guy recently. Sometimes I feel like a rattlesnake in a dildo. Know what I mean?”

“No, boss.”

“Something’s wrong with you, Carl. You seriously need to expand your horizons.”

“Boss, you’re expanded enough for the both of us.”

“That’s what she said. Heyoooooo!”

That got a laugh out of him. “I gotta run, boss. It’s movie night with my girls. Don’t get too corporate over there, you hear?”

“Me? Corporate? I’m the same lovable scamp you’ve always known. Slay ya later, Carl.”

“Later, boss.”

I took a moment to pull up the account of Gekko Tech-o Incorporated and made some changes. I named Carl as the Coordinator of Acquisition. It sounded impressive and it left a legal-looking paper trail to cover over his work for me. Plus, it’s only fitting that the owner of a corporation be a supervillain. It just made more sense that way.

Aside from keeping up with Carl and making a map, I had other projects. I needed information about magic stuff. As a general rule, few people gave me the time of day. Of those that did, none knew enough about magic to bother with. That left me with one good option: try my enemies.

Unfortunately, I didn’t have the Faustus communication protocols, which meant I had to contact them the old-fashioned way: an innocuous-seeming email to the their website front. If someone didn’t know better, it was merely a site for the buying of various mystical or homeopathic cures. Just like my email looked like someone innocently asking for some assistance on identifying which of their products a friend was using recently.

Hopefully they picked up on the bit about having gotten sick while visiting Six Flags over New Orleans. That’s the park where they used to have a base, until I went off the rails on a crazy train.

Then I had to leave for my doctor’s appointment. What, can’t a guy go see a psychiatrist? Let me correct that, can’t a guy go see a psychiatrist who happens to be named Eugene Basford?

The good doctor liked to serve the rich and famous. It sounded lucrative. He got to listen to the secrets of celebrities and prescribe them drugs. I got an appointment by pretending to be a movie star who preferred to keep my mental issues out of the limelight. The person I spoke with let me reserve my time under an alias.

I arrived in armor, though that’s not what I looked like. I needed to blend in. This was an office that normally saw movie stars, singers, and amateur sex tape stars. And not just any stars. Stars of Hollywood.

I’ve noticed that anytime a member of some group is among his peers in private, you’ll get behavior that seems eccentric to nonmembers. Like butchers. Get a bunch of butchers together, and soon they’ve wrecked the room with a water balloon fight, only with flank steaks and chicken gizzards instead of balloons.

Or if someone hosts a party for sculptors, don’t be surprised in the morning if it turned into nothing but bodybuilding and dick measuring.

That’s just how people are.

I’ve spent a lot of time attempting to figure out what happens when female porn stars get together in a convention. All surveillance footage I’ve seen leads me to believe they know they’re being watched. Plus, the videos show evidence of extensive editing.

They even added music.

So how would I possibly look like someone at ground zero of this sort of behavior from celebrities?

A bright purple suit, with a leopard print vest. But only on the vest. For the wide brim hat, I went with zebra stripes. Around my neck was a blinged-out version of a pine tree air freshener. On my way from the parking lot to the door of the office, people kept stopping me and talking about my amazing Saint’s Row cosplay.

That’s how I countered my persistent smell problem. My full-body halitosis, if you will.

I hid my face behind a veil. As soon as I walked in, the secretary looked up and said, “Oh, I didn’t realize one of the Jacksons was on the schedule for today. Sir, or ma’am, you can’t go in there, he’s waiting on a client!”

I kicked in the door to the inner office. “Grab your sphincter, motherfucker, ‘cause I’m here to play!”

The holographic version of myself ran right at him while I skipped over to the side, cloaking myself in invisibility. Dr. Eugene jumped up from his desk chair and raised a fist. What fired from it resembled the top half of a skeleton covered in thin tattered rags. This wraith turned out to be more a projectile than some sort of summoned being. It tore through the illusion like there was nothing there. Then it caught the secretary as she ran to the door.

She froze, then opened her mouth as if to scream. The only sound was like old paper crumpling. It was everything between her skin and bones was sucked out of her, the way she suddenly became thinner. Then she dropped in a pile of bones held together by skin.

He swung his hand toward the hologram, confused. I had it shrug. It disappeared when I grabbed Eugene’s wrist and made damn sure that ring was pointed somewhere else. “Easy there, Black Lantern. Why do you have to get so hostile so quickly? Geez, magic isn’t a toy. Nuclear weapons, flamethrowers, miniguns, those are toys.”

“Whatever you’re here for, I have money,” he said with a whimper.

“Money, money money. Who said anything about wanting money? I’m here to deal with my scatological issues. By the way, doc, when’s the last time you were checked for colon cancer?”


I held onto his wrist with my left hand and wound up my right for a big uppercut. My uppercut was much like my goals in life: I didn’t aim high and often had to deal with a lot of crap in my way. Needless to say, Dr. Basford didn’t enjoy it when someone reached inside to find out what made him tick.

Organs, as always.

“Nnnnnnngh! Ah ah ah ah ah!” He tried to raise himself up on the desk to get off my forearm. In the process, he got his arm loose and took a swipe at me. An ethereal sword blade sprang forth from the ring as it swung at me. Because of the positioning, all he managed to do was cut into my shoulder. I grabbed his hand and yanked his arm further behind him than it was supposed to go. Something in the shoulder socket popped and then he wasn’t flailing it anymore.

“Aww, this is the thanks I get? I come in here to teach you all about full-contact improvisational ventriloquism, and this is how you repay me?”

I bobbed him up and down, moving my hand inside him as if it was a speaking mouth. I spoke with a higher pitch for his lines. “Gee whiz, I’m so sorry Psycho Gecko. I was going to answer some of your questions about how I got this wonderful toy, but instead, I must die. Goodbye cruel world!”

That’s when he spilled his guts, quite literally too. My hand burst out with them. I then angled it around to face him as I once again used the high pitch voice. “Ooooh, throw out your hands, stick out your tush, hands on your hips, give them a push. You’ll be surprised, you’re doing the French Mistake, voila!” By the end, I projected a top hat onto my hand.

Eugene, who had not yet died, didn’t show any appreciation for my performance. So I reached through even further to grab his neck and yank it violently to the side. Oh snap, as I’ve repeatedly said after such kills.

I left a small note on his body as I walked out of the office. It read, “Just say ‘No’ to laxative.”

I almost made it out, but then something else appeared from the ring. It was a nebulous glow cloud at first. Then it took the form of a priest spinning in midair, a knife sticking out of each wrist and its throat. I dropped an illusion in my place and dove behind the secretary’s desk to avoid whatever the hell that was.

A whining noise filled the air, high enough pitched that it felt like it was in my head. I couldn’t see in the office anymore, but the illusion was caught by a swarm of knives and daggers of all sizes. Just when I thought it was over, one last cleaver flew out and embedded itself in the wood floor.

Then I saw the shrink step out, looking at the illusion, which just stood there and gave him the finger. Before he could see me, I went invisible again. Eugene rolled his neck with a crack but no apparent injury. His stomach mended as well, with entrails snaking back inside. Eugene gave the illusion a middle finger right back.

I noticed the ring pulsing during his regeneration.

He bent down and pulled the cleaver out of the floor. “You’re a tricky villain. I’m tricky too. It doesn’t matter how good you are, I was born better. Do you know who I am? You’re fucking with the wrong family!”

I appeared in front of him, grabbed the cleaver from his hand, and took his ring finger off. He screamed, but I shut him up when I shoved the finger in his mouth. He spat the finger back in my face, minus the ring. He showed off the ring in a pained grin, then tilted his head back and swallowed it.

“The fuck was that about?” I asked.

“Good luck killing me now,” he said, laughing.

I raised the cleaver. “Really?”

He gulped. “Someone will show up before you can get it out of me. I know! I have an appointment that will be here any second! A movie star with a security detail and a phone and a press agent.”

“Bullshit. I looked up your appointments. Didn’t recognize the name for this time,” I told him. I had to set up the joke that would really knock him dead, after all. I grabbed Eugene by the collar. I couldn’t help but notice that whatever benefit the ring gave him, he wasn’t conjuring shit up to attack me anymore.

“They’re using an alias. They’re down there as Paul Iachi. You won’t have time to get it out of me. Or maybe you can grab them instead. Yes, take them hostage and leave me alone.” Hope glimmered in his green eyes.

I cackled as I raised the cleaver overhead. “But doctor, I am Paul Iachi.”

Good joke. Roll on snare drums.



High Crass Criminal 3



“Sorry, sir, but we need you to remove all your weapons.”

A couple walking just ahead of me hurried up as the guards stopped me. I slumped and lolled my tongue out of my mouth as I let out a “Blegh.” The guys at the entrance had been easily duped. They all looked normal enough in their suits with their earbuds. Somehow, these guys could tell I was packing.

One of them stepped right in front of me. “I’m afraid we have to insist.”

I wanted to jam my knee into his mouth and choke him with his own teeth, then shove his leg up his buddy’s ass. However, the invitation to a fundraiser with a politician fascinated me. People whose family I’ve killed generally don’t react in such a way.

Plus, I’d have Moai backing me up. As independent-minded as I am, which here means that my mind takes long walks on the beach while I kill people and some people accuse me of losing it, I trusted that he’d face down anything to help me. He’s a loyal Moai statue. Not like those lazy ones that just stand around all day gawking at tourists.

The smartly-dressed guard held a plastic tub with a piece of paper wrapped around the handle. The paper had a tear-away tab with a number, like a valet receipt. “We’ll have everything checked and ready for when you leave. It’s more of a precaution to keep armed civilians from causing trouble,” the guard said.

I stuck my nose in the air and gave a harrumph! Then, I reached inside my jacket and began pulling things out. “Let’s see…ballistic knife, exploding throwing knife, non-exploding non-throwing knife, blinding powder egg, stiletto wrapped with LSD tabs, stiletto not wrapped with LSD tabs, stiletto heel ground to a point, chattering teeth, real teeth, and a pair of fireball capsules, and a pokéball.” I dropped the last of it on there. The guard tore the tab off the handle and gave it to me.

I stepped forward, but another guard, one with sunglasses on, said, “Stop.” His buddy with the tub got in my way.

“Hammer time?” I asked.

He set the bin down on the small table next to us and instructed me, “Sir, please hold up your arms while I check you over once again. My colleague there believes you to be carrying more concealed weapons.”

I glanced at the colleague. He tipped his glasses low so I could see his glowing blue eyes. I asked, “You got family in Empyreal City by any chance?” He just smiled and covered his eyes again.

This time, I let the guy frisking me call out what he found. “One combat knife. Another combat knife. One Swiss army knife. One marine entrenching tool. One rubber chicken. Another rubber chicken. A third rubber chicken. May I ask what the rubber chickens were for, sir?”

I shrugged. “I was going to take them out to a bar later on. I was curious what would happen and hadn’t heard that one before.”

“I asked for it, didn’t I? One fake mustache. One box of condoms, unopened. Is that all?” He addressed the last question to his partner, who undressed me with his eyes.

I smirked as I looked at the guy eyeballing me. “The thing between my legs may be concealed, but it makes a poor weapon. The only thing it did to your mother was make her walk funny today.”

He just grinned and said to his handsy buddy, “He’s got something stuck between his legs. Remove it.”

I rolled my eyes as the frisker knelt and reached between my legs to what I’d taped between them. He pulled off the fake patch of material that hid it from view and added it to the list. “One potato peeler. Should we let him keep this?” He looked up to his partner again.

The partner stared at me a few seconds, then shook his head. “No. I don’t think so.” So they took my laser potato peeler as well. Those bastards.

Disarmed but for the check receipt for my weapons, I waited for them to clear Moai for entry too. He was dressed in a tux and looked rather dashing for a stone monument. I figured it was the chin. Let’s face it, when the guy wore a tux, his sculpted features rocked many a woman. Even if Carl wasn’t traveling to Empyreal City to see his kids again, I’d have likely brought Moai.

The only thing they took from Moai was a pair of metal truck nuts he’d squirreled away in his inseam.

“Really?” I asked him as we walked toward the door to the ballroom. “Your nuts.” I gave the solid door a heave and held it open for him to walk through. “Why would you need your nuts when this place has a big enough ball for all of us?”

It wasn’t a ball per se. Chandeliers lit the room well enough to show that people preferred to mill about and talk rather than dance. Those that weren’t milling sat at tables with placards on them, eating extremely small portions of extremely shitty food prepared by extremely underpaid cooks to seem extremely expensive. The crowd didn’t resemble that of the conventional trap, either. Too many old people.

Also, it was white. That crowd had more Caucasians in it than the Caucasus. It was a veritable swarm of Stay Puft Marshmallow people.

I pulled out my invitation. “I don’t see a seating chart or a seat number here. Let’s go check those names. I know it looks like half the city’s geriatric population broke out of the nursing home here, but there’s still a chance that one of these Alzheimer’s-ridden black holes of life support will think it’s the Great War all over again and try to gut me with a bayonet. And I may need you to help me clear out the restroom line so I can occupy the Southern front. Now then, act cool and blend in.”

I smiled and maneuvered my way through the crowd. There was little reaction to my eyes or even to Moai. Daddy’s girl was right about the importance of knowing the right people. That, or I walked into a trap. I snaked between bodies and tables until I found one larger table set apart from the others. This one had my name on a sign in front of a pair of seats.

A small crowd had gathered nearby. One of the men seated at the table was standing to address the others. Next to him, a much younger woman stayed seated. She had been watching me as I got closer, I realized. She smiled, looking more genuine than I expected. “Hello. Our special guest has arrived.” Looking up to the older man standing next to her, she brushed a hand over the side of his coat. He glanced down at her. “Honey, why don’t you introduce me to your last-minute guest?”

The man turned toward me then and extended a hand. “Nice to meet you, Psychopomp Gecko. I’m Ethan Basford.” I shook the proffered hand. The woman stood and held out her hand as well. “This is my wife, Virginia.” I gave her a sloppy kiss on the back of her hand, with tongue and everything.

“Enchanté, madam.” I then put my hand on Moai’s stony shoulder. “Since you already know me, this fellow here is Moai. He will, he will, rock you.” Moai and I stomped the floor a couple of times and I clapped, mimicking the song. The amused expressions on the faces of our hosts didn’t falter, nor did they offer hands.

It would have been rude, but Moai hasn’t ever been one for handshakes.

“Please sit,” Mr. Basford said, indicating our chairs. As Moai and I parked our high end hind ends, he turned to the small group he had been addressing before. They had waited quietly on us as we were introduced, judging us behind neutral expressions.

A couple of them frowned ever so slightly as Basford told them, “I have much to discuss and not all of it completely on the up and up. It’s for the best if you’re not around for all this.” He clapped the man who hadn’t frowned on the shoulder.

The man dismissed his apology with a wave of his hand. “You don’t need to explain that to me. I should be milking this crowd for donations anyway. Take care, and don’t forget: vote early, vote often.”

They shared a laugh before the trio walked off. Basford took his seat as well now. “That was my Senator. He’s a good man if his wallet is heavy. I’m curious if you’re the same way.” Though he narrowed his eyes, the jovial grin never left his face.

I grabbed the fork in front of me and twirled it through my fingers, wondering who I’d have to fork in the ass that night. “Well, if the situation is bad enough that I’ve become the good guy, money’s not worth very much.”

Mr. Basford shot his wife a look. She giggled at some private joke and leaned forward, though not in a way that showed off the extra real estate her husband had added to her chest. “Please,” she said to Moai and I, “relax and enjoy the food. We don’t intend to hurt you, and that food shouldn’t go to waste. A plate at this fling costs $1,500.”

Without saying a word, I took hold of the empty glass in front of me. A waiter dutifully stepped forward. I held it up and he filled it with a red wine. I brought the glass close to my nose, smelling it, taking in the fruity flavor of the alcohol derived from fruit. I sipped it, swirled it around my mouth, then turned and did a spit take, getting it all over the hapless waiter. Disgusted, he ran off to get a towel. Turning to my hostess again, I said, “$1,500? What’s the matter, you can’t spring that much for a grill and an assload of hot dogs?”

Really, that money didn’t pay for the food. It paid for a chance to talk to a politician who could afford a new grill and hotdogs for a year because of you. To be fair, though, the fettuccine alfredo with veal medallions in front of me tasted delicious. I tried it after checking it thoroughly for explosive devices with a knife they provided. It was a dull butter knife, best suited for punching through the skin into the carotid artery.

Mr. Basford spoke up, no longer so amused by my antics. “Mr. Gecko, when I first heard about my daughter’s death, the first thing that came to mind was ‘who does this person think they are?’ So I called the Pinkerton detectives. They had enough information on you for a pair of novels. You fascinated me. You even made me laugh a few times. What I saw convinced me you would be more valuable as an asset instead. You killed one member of my family for free. How would you like to be paid to kill more of my relations?”

I shrugged, then jumped over the table and held the knife to Mrs. Basford’s throat. “How much?”

Startled, Mr. Basford reacted slowly. When he spoke after a couple of seconds, he said to me, “Not her. Not my wife or my other children.” Then, speaking more loudly, he addressed the crowd and security guards, “It’s fine. There’s nothing wrong here. It was just part of a joke.” He laughed and even slapped his knee.

I eased back into my seat and my meal. “Considering your family has access to money and magical artifacts, I’d like more info before I agree. Plus, now I’m interested. Do y’all have a pooled trust or some sort of big inheritance from a parent who is about to croak?”

The eyes of Mrs. Basford burned as they bore into me. I didn’t notice their color before, but now it looked as though black irises lined her pupils. “You could say either one, or even both. This isn’t a matter of money for us. It’s about the power our family will inherit. The power to rip your skin apart and peel the muscles from your bones is insignificant compared to what we stand to gain. Dear, Mr. Gecko, please excuse me while I refresh myself.”

Mrs. Basford stood, kissed her husband’s cheek, and departed through the crowd.

Mr. Basford watched her go, looking a million miles away from my table. While he watched her go, I waved over the waiter who had the misfortune to serve me wine earlier.

“More, sir?”

“Nope. You get to keep your tips?” I ignored my wine this time in favor of drinking from the complimentary water that came with the $1,500 meal.


“You keep them or do you pool them with the others?”

“We pool them, sir.”

I pulled out a wallet and counted out $1,000 in hundred dollar bills. “Then this is for the pool.” I tossed the wallet aside, pulled out another one, and counted out $500. “And this fell off the back of a truck.” I shoved the second wad of cash into his pockets.

He opened his mouth as if to say something, but no sound came out. I helped him along. “You’re welcome,” I said.

“Thank you,” he finally responded, then left, glancing back at me once as he approached the main cluster of tables to see to his duties.

“That was generous of you,” noted Mr. Basford.

I shrugged and tossed the second wallet away. “Awful generous of somebody here. So, you want me to narrow the field down for when y’all inherit some sort of power? Does that just mean they’ll all have magic wands, or is someone going to do something crazy like try to cut me?”

Basford nodded. “It means magic. My line is heir to a great power. It’s part of a deal made long ago with beings that some would see as devils. We, the entire family, only command a fraction of it currently. The circumstances under which it is fully released to us are more banal than you would probably care to hear at this time. Help me out and you’ll be able to live on $1,500 dinners. And it always pays to have powerful friends. What do you say?”

What could I say? A guy had the potential to obtain obscene amounts of some vague power that could strip my shy skeleton of its protective layers of organs, meat, and skin. And he’d pay well. If not me, he’d probably find someone else who could help him with it. Possibly Lone Gunman, if the Pinkerton Detective Agency gathered intel better than they fought. Where would I be if Gunman was sitting in my place and, like me, he got the idea to steal it?

Of course, he could just be a jackass with too much money getting lied to by a wand maker somewhere. Or this might be an overly-elaborate plan to kill me.

Fully intending to find out a lot more about the situation, I raised my wine glass. “I say we toast our new and mutually-beneficial partnership.”



High Crass Criminal 2



When I barged into the office of the Hollywood Walk of Fame Trust, swinging a saxophone ahead of me and wearing a fruit hat with full armor, I thought the man at his desk would accommodate my unique need to maim people hilariously. Laughing maniacally, I stomped up to him and pulled him close with the end of the saxophone. One push of the rocket button was all that separated this man from discovering what barbecue thinks in its spare time.

The slick-haired middle-aged man spoke into the phone he held, “I’m going to have to call you back. Something just came up. Thank you, buh-bye!”

I leaned in close, strawberries dangling in front of my face from the corner of the hat. “Good, now we…” I trailed off and blew a dangling strawberry out of my face. A couple of puffs proved fruitless, due to the helmet. It just fell back, so I grabbed the hat and rotated. Finally, I could begin again. “As I was saying, we can now thppppppppppPHPHTHPPP!” Rolling my eyes and holding up a finger, I now pulled the dangling raspberry out of my face and tossed it onto the brim of the hat.

“Now that I’m done with raspberries, onto the talk. When a man and a woman really, really like each other…wait, wrong talk. Oh, yeah, I know what I came here for. I want two things. Two.” I held up two fingers in a V sign, palm toward me. “I want to hurt you ‘til it’s funny. And it can be funny. Lowest bum, down on his luck…a victim of a poodle named ‘Froo Froo’ dropped out a window by a housewife who had enough of all the shedding. We’re getting slightly off topic. Thing Two, I want a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Give me a star, or give me death. Your death.”

He shrugged and nodded. “You got it.”

I stopped my hand in mid-swing. The papaya in that hand was, sadly, not smashed in the man’s face. It didn’t depress me because I got a star. “Really?”

“Yeah, really. Why not? You’re not the first person to come in here like this.” He grabbed a clipboard and pen off his desk. “What’s your name?”

I sat on the desk and oversaw his spelling of my name. “Psychopomp Gecko. Really? It’s that easy?”

“Psychopomp…Not the first alias we’ve put on there. Parkyakarkus was a strange one. Liberace. Houdini. Muhammad Ali, technically. He got his the same way. Walked right in and threatened to punch the first person who objected to his getting a star.”

After he finished, I grabbed the guy’s pen and stuck it in the brim of my fruit hat. “How’d that turn out?”

“We put it on a wall so no one will ever walk on his name. Howard’s nose still whistles when it’s cold.”

I clapped him on the shoulder. “Well, thanks. Good to know I’ll be remembered amongst names of famous actors like Harrison Ford from Star Wars and Harrison Ford from the silent era. It’s a somber occasion when I need to uphold my end of a bargain, but I am a man of my word when it’s convenient.”

I stood up and began to walk out the office. His words followed me out. “Stars are worthless anyway, not like the handprints outside Graumann’s.”

“GRAUMANN’S!” I yelled, charging out of the office.

The next day, I led a group by the TCL Chinese Theater, also known as Graumann’s Chinese Theater. Few of the tourists showed any worry about their guide being dressed in power armor. Neither did they mind the fruit hat or the saxophone. “Alright, people, I know you’re still obsessed with Christopher Walken’s hands and John Wayne’s fist, but I have a real treat for you over in this square.”

I indicated a fresher square of dried cement. Instead of the normal signature and handprint in the cement, this one featured human body parts. Not indentations. A cement-covered hand dug its nails into the next block over. I pointed out the various intricacies of the monument to the tourists, who snapped photo after photo.

“Here is a special monument to the chairman of the committee that determines which actors get immortalized here at Graumann’s. It was created just recently in special thanks to the chairman for his emphasis on exclusivity in selecting the best actors to go in the courtyard. Most notably, he refused to give a block to Psycho Gecko, the infamous supervillain with the most prestigious new star on the Walk of Fame. Maybe I’ll take y’all by there later for the low, low price of an extra hundred dollars a head. Now, does anybody have questions about how stupid this person was to not give Psycho Gecko a square? You, in the back, you have a question?”

The man spoke with a thick German accent. “It looks quite lifelike. I almost imagine I see a screaming face in there. Why did he choose this?”

I projected a large and obnoxious smile. “He didn’t so much choose the form of this memorial as have it forced on him. He really wasn’t in a mood to fight back when they gave him a preview of the final form. He had a hard day of work, which included his daily ritual of having a watermelon shoved up his anus. Let me tell you from personal experience, it’s hard to complain with a watermelon riding in your ass like a green Martian butt baby. Anyone else? Any questions at all?”

Next up was a young Latina popping bubblegum. “Why’s it look so fucked up?”

I nodded toward her. “That’s because it was made fucked up on purpose. You can tell from the positioning that they started to put them in all the right places until the artist was inspired to mix it all up. That’s why you have his head coming out from between his legs, and why one hand is giving the universal hand sign of peace and love to all passerby.”

Another Latina next to the first one spoke up then. “That’s the finger, not some hippie symbol.”

I raised my voice to talk over her. “Universal hand sign of peace and love! Go ahead, everyone who is not from here, feel free to use it on the angriest looking person you see on your trip today. I promise your positive attitudes will bring the stars out for you to enjoy. And now, ladies and gentlemen, it’s time for ninjas.”

They stared blankly, trying to process the majesty of that statement. Meanwhile, I plucked a banana off my hat and threw it at the ground. It burst open, spewing smoke that concealed me. I called Moai and the others who had been waiting for this moment. When the smoke cleared, I stood alongside Moai and the Rejects. We all wore the stereotypical and historically inaccurate ninja pajama outfits.

I was perfectly concealed beneath the hologram of my ninja costume, except for my fruit hat and sax. “Ready?” I said back to the others. Roberta in particular nodded back to me, and they swung into the air on grappling hooks hooked onto the theater and surrounding buildings. That’s how they got there so quickly. I jumped high into the air and caught a pair of large brass and terrazzo stars. I spun in midair and threw one. The Walk of Fame star of Gene Autry stabbed into John Wayne’s cement block. The other four from the actor soon followed.

The Hollywood Walk of Fame was a poor supplier of shuriken, unless the wannabe ninja had super strength.

Before I could fall, Larry swung out and offered me the end of a spare line. I laughed. Well, I think we all laughed. Most people don’t get the opportunity to swing around a Chinese theater dressed as vengeful Japanese ninjas, flinging local monuments into one another.

At the end of my swing, I fell against the theater itself. Zane, the guy with the huge microencephalitc head, landed beside me. “How’s villainy treating you, Zane?”

He stuck Michael Jackson’s star in the side of the building and pulled down his face wrap. “I guess it’s okay. I thought by now I would be getting more out of life. I don’t remember my old life very well, but I think I wanted a family. Kids. A wife. A home with trees and little red mulch in front of it. Hey, wait a minute. How did you know it was me?”

Below us, a man ran out of the theater. He was speaking into a phone and shaking his fist at our antics. I held out a hand toward Zane. “Shush, I need a star. You got a spare?”

He reached behind, to a large backpack, and pulled one out. I took a glance at the name and said, “Very appropriate.”

I dropped to the bottom of my line as I swung pushed off to cross in front of him. The star made a poor cutting instrument, but I knocked the phone from his hand and a hole in his cheek using the star of Slash the guitarist. Before I could come back for another pass, Cecil B. DeMille came out of nowhere and caught him in the gut. Well, DeMille’s star.

I turned to the perpetrator of this stolen kill. I found Moai finishing a flip as smugly as any moving statue could flip without the ability to change its facial expression. It landed in the middle of the courtyard. I hung there and crossed one arm over my chest to indicate my irritation. I also also projected a hologram of a harlequin stabbing a little girl and her teddy bear over my head. “No fair, dude. I wanted him. Besides, I should have had DeMille’s star. I’m probably the only person to match his kill count.”

Moai shook his head at that. I let go of the line and dropped to the ground. I shrugged. “Alright, you’re right. That was a lame and dated joke, but you like Blazing Saddles too!”

The sound of approaching sirens caused the entire group to perk up. “Aha! Time put these costumes to good use. We must be sneaky, Moai. We must think like ninjas. Now, what would real ninjas do?”

So we ran away while getting rid of the stupid pajama outfits that stood out too much.

The entire group reconvened back at the old video store we were staying in. The first thing I did when I got back was crank up the air conditioning, which was also tied into the car. Then I stripped out of my armor and laid down on the cool counter top.

Moai walked up and draped a pine-tree-shaped air freshener around my neck. Roberta then crawled in, holding a bunch of envelopes in a pair of claws. “Guess who’s got mail!” she cheerily exclaimed.

I didn’t bother looking up until her clacking claws approached and she dropped the mess on my chest.

“The fuck?” I grabbed the envelopes. They were all addressed to me at that address. I expected junk mail or old creditors for the business that used to be there, but there was no good reason any of my group should have gotten mail. Yet there were the letters. I sat up and adjusted myself where my skin stuck to the counter. “Alright, looks like we might be moving soon.”

“Awwww. What do they say?” Roberta asked. She lifted herself partially onto the counter and partially to the ceiling.

“Well, looks like we got a whole lot of people with the same name sending us mail. I don’t think I know any Basfords. Anyone here a Basford?”

The collective of irradiated people shook their heads, shrugged their shoulders, and otherwise indicated the negative.

Tearing open the letters, I read the main points aloud. “Let’s see…dear handsome killer person with a big dick except when it’s really cold on the counter, blah blah blah, invite you to a dinner to discuss a mutual business relationship.” I picked up the next. “Invite you to a weekend at our estate for a wine tasting and discussion of an exciting opportunity.” I tried another. “Would love to take you out for a night of hookers and blow.”

Larry scoffed at that one. I held it out to him. “That’s what it actually says. All these guys want something from me for some reason.”

I let Larry keep that letter and grabbed another. “Dear man who killed my daughter…I have a feeling I know who this one is from…I understand you may be hesitant to accept a proposal from me, but I wish to have you over for a fundraiser I am throwing for a senator I own. This is not a trap. My spoiled malcontent of a brat was worth little to me in comparison to your skills. Enclosed you will find an engraved invitation to the fundraiser, set to be held within a few days. Unfortunately, bull costumes are inappropriate for this social function. P.S.: do not accept the offers from the others of my family. The vultures who call themselves my cousins and uncles only court you because the thought occurred to me first. They will turn on you in an instant.”

I set it and the invitation down, then glanced at the pile of letters from the assorted Basfords. “Hmmm, shit’s going down. Confusing shit. What do y’all think?”

I looked up, making Zane start. He had been bent over the fruit hat, which was still on my helmet. I must have spooked him in the middle of a snack because he started choking, his eyes bulging out. I grabbed a coconut off the hat and threw it into his stomach. He clutched at it where the nut hit, but the pressure caused him to expel the fruit that had lodged in his esophagus on me. The fact that the fruit turned out to be a pen better explained his inability to chew it and made things less messy for me.

Holding the pen in one hand, I grabbed another coconut from my hat with the other. Looking between the two, I figured I might as well have a good time with all these invitations. “The pen is mightier than the sword, but nothing takes your breath away like a nut,” I mused quietly to myself.

“What was that? Nevermind. Thank you so much, Gecko.” Zane held out a hand to shake. I gave him the pen, then held up the fundraiser invite.

“Yo, Moai! I’m going to walk into a trap. You want to be my ‘plus one’?”



High Crass Criminal 1



Ah, Los Angeles. The land of opportunity. The land where a person can find their happy ending in any massage parlor around. A home to heroes and stars.

It would have been a great place for my latest companions, the Rejects, to make a go of things. Instead, they wanted to raid the Hephaestus building. I doubted there was anything worth destroying there now. The best I could do instead was direct them to a plastic surgery clinic that Hephaestus used as a front.

“Are you sure you don’t want to come with us?” asked Roberta, giving me the cyclopic version of a puppy dog eye on a stalk.

I waved her off. “Sorry there, Roberta. I’ve won and I say I’ve earned some down time.” I turned away and plopped on my folding lawn chair. With a woomph, I fell through it, bending it inward.

“What about Lone Gunman? Aren’t you going to kill him?” she asked, curling her mouth tube around to talk right in my ear.

I piled up the pieces of the lawn chair and sat on that. “Lone Gunman isn’t part of Hephaestus after all that. Yep, he’s on the run. I’d say I deserve a brief vacation.”

Roberta sighed and scuttled off to join the others.

I lasted ten minutes on my own before I got bored and walked inside the trailer. “Someone really needs to turn that sun off someday,” I said to myself. I didn’t have much else to do around there.

An idea quickly popped into my head on how to entertain myself in such a city. Better yet, it would give me time with Moai. But first, I needed my costume.

An hour later, we gave up on our taxi and abandoned it in the middle of traffic to the chagrin of our distraught driver. We weren’t far. We cut through a building and we were there. Well, we didn’t so much cut through as charge through and smash a hole in every wall in out path, but that sort of thing happens.

After busting through there onto Rodeo Drive, I hopped off the saddle on Moai’s back and changed the projection from a cowboy to a minotaur. Moai got into costume too. He removed the horsehead mask and replace dit with a longhorn headband.

I took it all in. the wide streets, the palm trees, the metal torso statue. I pointed that last one out in particular. “Look at these guys. They think a person with no brains is a piece of art.”

Moai scraped the bottom right of his base against the sidewalk, then the left. I gave him a slap on the rear. “Giddyup!”

Moai ran for the torso, lowering his big stone head. I started after him, but I ran hard enough to catch up so I could rum up his backside. I hit my jump boosters and powered off his head, causing him to stumble as I flung myself at the big metal torso statue. I bounced off an landed in the windshield of what used to be a very nice Porsche, having caught a bad case of the Ow My Fucking Shoulders. I didn’t get to see how well I did against the torso statue because by the time I looked up, Moai had already knocked off its pedestal with a metal groaning sound.

I pumped my fist in the air. “Good job! That’s grabbing the bull by the horns!”

“Good heavens, what have you done?!” asked some gasping voice from nearby. I turned to find a woman who wore a dress that puffed out every foot or so. It looked like Dr. Seuss was high fashion.

I rolled off the windshield of the car I had rested on and grabbed the woman’s hand to shake. “Howdy! We’re here to make Rodeo Drive live up to its name. Mind the cow patties.”

She looked me in my visor, mouth agape. She didn’t close that damn mouth, so I grabbed onto her tongue with one hand. “I would not wear that in a house, I would not wear that with a mouse, I would not wear this dress, no no, I think this dress really needs to go!” I ripped her outfit off with the other hand.

She screamed and tried to run away. I let her go only to take the dress in both fists, jump on her back, and try to ride her like a horse. Sadly, the mare didn’t have much in the way of horsepower left in her.

I had to put her down. “Yo momma’s so ugly whenever she goes by the zoo, everyone thinks an orangatang learned to walk backwards on its hands. Yo momma’s so fat, the only way to fuck her is to find the unprotected thermal exhaust port and go in with a pair of wingmen. Yo momma so stupid, she thought herpes was a Greek monster.”

I was soon interrupted by a man in a suit weeping over his car. He was on his knees in front of the damaged Porsche, hands in his hair. “What happened to you, baby? Who hurt you?”

I gave an “Ahem” and waved. His eyes widened. He shot to his feet and ran for it, leaving his “baby” behind. I skipped after him, humming the song “Common People” to myself.

I caught up to him after a minute. He laid on the sidewalk, sweat drenching his suit and dripping off of him like he’d been left out in the rain. I set my boot on his ass. “Too bad for you the fashion community has never heard the term ‘shorts weather’ eh? Or one of those windbreaker suits? I’d like to make that fashionable next season. Part of a series on outfits that aren’t fucking idiotic in the summer.”

I backed up, took aim, and allocated power to the muscle enhancers in one leg. Then I punted him in the pucker. Socked him in the sphincter, he achieved flight and ended it down the block in a palm tree.

I turned to see what I could find to mess with next and saw one of those fancy fashion stores that Rodeo Drive was so infamous for. I kicked in the door and walked in.

The inside was immaculately clean. Everything looked so new, like they’d just opened the place. There were displays of weird outfits all around, but just to show off, though most of the clothing was more conventional looking and on a rack that had more lights hanging over it than some theater stages. In fact, there was way too much light in general, as it refracted through glass and crystal decorations. Next to the door was a short white table with dark blue flowers.

“Welcome. Is there anything I can assist you with today?” A cheerful attendant approached, looking as primped and madeup as a green-skinned alien babe on a sci fi TV show. The implacable smile etched on her face made her look just as alien.

I noticed others as well. There was a young woman, late teens to early twenties, who was dressed all in that Armani or Gucci shit that people bought because someone put a name on it. Beside her was a bulky man in a suit that looked to be the oldest outfit in the store. Bags hung from his arms like a tree that grew expensive pieces of crap as fruit. While the young lady just stood back and crossed her arms, he moved to shield her and set the bags down.

I ignored his feeble attempts to go for a weapon and instead focuses on the store’s help. I projected an oversized Cheshire cat grin. I tilted my head as I said to the woman. “Oh of course you can help me. I’ll take all the money in the register.”

The smile never left her face. “I’m sorry, sir. We don’t have a register here. Nobody pays by cash here, so I’m afraid you can’t rob us. I would ask if you’d like to try something on, but it appears you are having money problems. Please move on, sir.” She nodded.

I set my hands on her shoulders. “I see why you’d want me gone. We’d hate to have you call the police, now would we?” I faked a chuckle, eliciting one from her as well. “Oh dear, a supervillain picked up for loitering. Wouldn’t that be a tale to tell? I’d need that like you’d need another hole in your head.” I sold the fake laugh. She did as well, throwing her head back like this was the funniest thing ever. You know, like it was entertaining to lower herself to my level.

I punched through her guffawing mouth and out through the back of her skull, giving her that hole she laughed at. “Huh, I expected more resistance once I got into her skull. My mistake, thinking there’d be something there.” I shrugged in the direction of the customer and her bodyguard/bag hauler and kicked the attendant’s body unceremoniously off my arm. I also dropped that smile hologram.

I left them alone and found the counter. She was right. There was no register. There was a cash bag for some reason, but the main point of interest for me was the computer system. I altered a few numbers and helped myself to a full refund of every purchase made there in the last six months. It was boring. Too easy.

During all this, the man argued with his younger charge, who wanted to stay and enjoy the spectacle I presented. He insisted she get out of there before she got hurt. She put her foot down. In the process of taking that saying literally, she stomped on her would-be protector’s foot.

When I finished, took a seat on the counter and looked to the pair. “Alright, what the fuck are y’all doing here? You got a death wish?”

The bodyguard ran for the door, abandoning his charge to me. She stood there unconcerned. I pointed to the fleeing man. “You wouldn’t give a damn if I killed him, would you?”

She giggled. “He never wants me to have any fun. Sometimes I think that’s the only reason my father assigned him to me.”

“You know, I suspect you’re a moron. Or do you just not think I would harm you, too?” I slid off the counter and stepped close to her. “Why don’t you tell me why this doesn’t end with me killing you? I could always stand to hear a good story. Are there elephants involved?”

“The usual. Daddy’s rich and powerful, so nobody hurts me. It doesn’t pay.”

I stepped closer and she didn’t even flinch. “Supervillains too?”

“It’s all about who you know. That’s how they get invited to all the big events.”

I picked up her bags and looked through them. Clothes. Clothes. Clothes.

“Don’t mess anything up in there. It costs more than your little costume there and I have a date.”

I tore out one of her dresses. “That looked nice. What is that, silk straight from the worm’s butt?”

She threw her arms down by her sides, fists clenched. “That was Gucci, asshole.”

I grabbed her by the head and tied the torn dress around her like a diaper, covering up her mouth. “Gucci Gucci goo, baby doll. You know what this town needs?”

She pulled it off and threw it at me. She stomped toward the door as best she could in those platform pumps she wore. “Carlos! Dial Daddy!”

How rude. I jumped her from behind before she made it to the door. “Get off me! Carlos!”

“You left while we were still talking. Seriously, nobody has come by and adjusted that attitude of y’all’s? I hate to be cliché, except when it’s funny, but this town deserves a better class of criminal.” I dragged her, kicking and screaming out the door.

Oddly enough, she chose that time to pull out what I thought was a phone. Except whatever she pulled out, it went from a phone to a wand with the press of a button. She held it out. The end glowed and it knocked me back into the display window of the store.

She stood up, pointing her little wand at the window I flew through. I was too sneaky to be caught like that. Not when there was another window on the other side of the door to throw myself out. I rolled, avoiding a sparkly poof of magic. I grabbed her by the wrist and squeezed it. The bones broke and she dropped that wand.

Pushing her to her butt, I then took hold of her ankle and powered up all my enhancers. I spun her around me and jumped into the air. I left the skyline of Rodeo Drive below me as I tossed the magical little daddy’s girl into the wispy clouds. As I fell, I opened my arms wide, ready to fall back into the waiting embrace of some asshole’s Bentley.

As I fell, I smiled to myself and spoke to the clouds, “Why so cirrus?”